By Max Clarke

After extensive development, including a beta trial release tested by more than 200,000 organisations, Microsoft have today unveiled their latest cloud based service: Office 365.

Microsoft’s latest product line, featuring online versions of Office, Lync and SharePoint, has been designed to offer smaller businesses the same collaborative abilities of big enterprise, without the need to invest in accompanying infrastructure.

Small businesses, says tech entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den star Doug Richards, differ from their larger counterparts in just two ways: time and money. Their operations are no less complex, and they require the same ability to collaborate within their staff and with associates outside of the business.

“Great collaboration is critical to business growth, and because it’s so important, we believe the best collaboration technology should be available to everyone,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “With a few clicks, Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years.”

One business to have embraced the cloud, reaping the full benefits of Microsoft’s beta release, is Shine Therapy. Headed by cofounders Lisa McSpirit and Sara Honey-Smith, the company turned the practice of speech therapy delivery on its head by delivering their services to schools as opposed to having clients visit them. This helped deliver savings in time and money for the pair’s customers, boosting Shine’s competitiveness. By adopting Microsoft’s Office 365, the pair have been able to expand, boosting their headcount and expanding to cover a 35 mile area across Lancashire- all without a central office. Overheads have been kept rock bottom by no investing in infrastructure paying for office space rental, and the business has been able to expand. in tough times.

"Everybody at Shine Therapy uses Office 365. We can upload all of our clinical, confidential data on to a secure site, so we're not having to carry any of that data around with us on our laptops," said Sara.

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