By Marcus Leach, Head of Editorial at Fresh Business Thinking

Given the glut of companies offering cloud services we are all, by now, well aware of what has fast become the hottest topic when it comes to IT solutions. Microsoft has released the Beta of their cloud service, Office 365, which is aimed at enhancing the IT capabilities of professionals and small businesses.

In Microsoft’s words it is the ‘bringing together of cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products with the latest version of our desktop suite for businesses of all sizes’. So in essence many of the products featured on Office 365 already exist, however, now, for the first time they will be available on the cloud.

Microsoft have gone about establishing a service that really delivers to the needs of small businesses. They have got to the heart of the key issues relating to cloud computing and designed an end product that more than exceeds expectations. Microsoft feel the three key requirements small businesses need from a cloud service are a professional image, the ability to work from anywhere and to easily collaborate data whilst remaining productive. And in Office 365 that is what they have delivered.

So, what does Office 365 entail, and perhaps more importantly how will it benefit small businesses? It delivers quite an excellent array of products, including integrated email and calendar, Office web apps such as Word, Powerpoint and Excel, as well as IM and Online messaging.

One of the key benefits Office 365 delivers to business owners is the ability to buy the services and products that suit your specific needs, thus ensuring you get true value for money. Further to that, as with many pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans, users can add on further products as and when their business requires them. With the basic plan coming in from £4 per user, per month it really does seem that business owners can use Office 365 as a serious alternative to owning and operating their own servers.

Given that there is currently a beta, and with many Office products it is likely there will be a 30-day free trial available online it would be foolish not to at least see what Office 365 can do for you and your business, it may just turn out to be the perfect cloud solution you were looking for. For more information go to www.microsoft.com/uk/sb/office365 or to download the Beta visit

Watch the video below featuring Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, explaining how Office 365 addresses the challenges that small businesses face.


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