For any small business, the decision to switch to a cloud-based system where all pieces of data can be stored online is one that’s worth deliberating.
Platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 have many benefits, but they might not always be suitable for every business. To help you decide whether or not it’s a system that works for your business, here are the pros and cons of using MS Office 365 for business.
Advantages of Office 365
Work from anywhere with Internet access
One of the biggest advantages of using a cloud-based system is that all appliances you’d normally use at work can be accessed remotely.
In the past, people would access programs on their computers or physical servers at work. Microsoft Office 365 allows businesses to access these same files and programs from anywhere they want using any compatible device they like – users no longer need to be on-premises to complete their work.
This is because everything can be saved onto the cloud server, so as long as you have internet, you can carry on working.
Even if you have a poor internet connection or suffer from regular downtime, some Office 365 plans allow you to install the full desktop versions of the programs so you can carry on working and simply sync the changes once you’ve reconnected.
This makes Office 365 highly convenient for remote employees who work at home or travel frequently as they can easily be kept in the loop.
Work productivity can be improved and time saved in two main ways:
1. Seamless team collaboration
For many businesses, being able to collaborate with in-house departments and employees, and third party individuals is an important factor.
Office 365’s Co-Authoring tool allows multiple users to collaborate a piece of work at the same time. Employees can engage with each other on the same project and no duplicate copies will be created because the updates are seen in real-time, you can see who’s made what change at what time.
The multi-collaboration feature also helps to save time as you don’t have to wait for other people to finish working on the piece before you can make your edits.
2. Regular, automatic updates
In the past, IT technicians would have spent time checking, rebooting and updating software, which not only takes up their time but also means other employees have to wait for that to be completed before they can continue working.
In contrast, Office 365 regularly pushes out automatic updates. This relieves the burden placed on your IT staff, freeing up some of their time so they can be productive elsewhere and allows you to continue working without being held back by slow, outdated software.
Reduces security risks with advanced protective features
One of the main concerns about cloud-based systems such as Office 365 is how secure it will be. Microsoft have taken leaps and bounds in terms of security features to ensure that data uploaded onto the cloud system are as secure as they possibly can be. And it’s not just things like hashed passwords with a mix up letters, numbers and characters.
There are many interesting and highly valuable features but Office 365’s most notable and popular ones include:
Data Loss Prevention
A feature that allows businesses to monitor, regulate and protect sensitive business data.
An Office 365 feature that allows Enterprise E5 users broad visibility of the threat landscape. This helps businesses understand threats so they can respond more effectively to them.
Mobile Device Management
A feature that allows your IT staff to be able to control the Office 365 software on their mobile devices. If somebody’s device is lost or stolen, all of the data can be deleted in order to protect it without needing that original device to wipe it.
This is a notable feature for businesses that want to go that one step further in protecting sensitive data.
A feature that provides extra protection from sophisticated threats that may be hidden in emails and attachments. Users are also provided with additional security features such as two-factor authentication.
Multiple, flexible plans tailored to businesses
An office software plan might look perfect in all ways but a few, but businesses like yours shouldn’t have to change just to fit into them. This is often the case with productivity suites that only have two or three plans available.
Microsoft have seven plans to choose from which not only contain a mixture of unique and overlapping features, but also help cater to businesses of all sizes. That means you no longer need to compromise and can choose the plan that suits you and your business needs.
Disadvantages of Office 365
You always need an Internet connection to access up to date files
The biggest advantage of Office 365 is its ability to allow users to access their work wherever they are, but this can also be its biggest disadvantage.
This is because Office 365, like all cloud-based systems, uploads its data onto the web which is how you can access your work and not need to be on-premises or use your office computer.
If your business suffers from poor internet connection or regular downtime, then this can be a problem as you won’t be able to access your most recent files.
However, certain plans allow you to download full desktop versions of Office 365 applications so if you know you’re going to be without internet, you can simply download them and carry on working as normal – then upload later.
Is data ever completely secure?
If your business has a lot of data – to the point where it can become difficult to deal with and cope – Microsoft can take the burden off by helping to manage the security aspects.
However, some businesses might not be comfortable with this as understandably, they’d want their data controlled by their own employees rather than surrendering it to an external company.
Microsoft have strict safety and management regulations in place to help protect your information, as well as the security features we mentioned earlier. However, these regulations may interfere with your business’s daily activities (for example, preventing particular types of files from being imported). If that is the case, certain Office 365 plans, such as the Enterprise plan, allow you to control your own data – for peace of mind.
Plus, there’s also the security issue of information being accessed through the internet, as even the best and most advanced of security measures can be breached.
However, most modern cloud-based systems have highly advanced security features to help protect sensitive data as best as possible. There are also various proactive measures you can take – for example, conducting regular inspections of data in order to discover rogue projects and suspicious activity.
Software should also be updated on a regular basis so you always have the latest security features – something which Office 365 does automatically.
This might just be one of the most disheartening scenarios a business could face. Imagine being excited to finally test out Office 365 after years of putting up with slow, outdated software and then finding out that it isn’t compatible with your old system.
While Microsoft might roll out continuous updates with advanced features, they tend to only be compatible with devices that are capable of handling such a sophisticated piece of software.
If you find that your systems aren’t compatible with Office 365, then there are a few ways around it – but they can be costly and time-consuming. You could either upgrade every one of your systems to a newer version of Microsoft Windows or buy new systems.
As well as this, you might also have clients or work with third-party companies who don’t use cloud systems or have the same software.
To help mitigate this drawback, Office 365 comes with Office Online – a tool that allows third-party users to use basic functions such as viewing and editing documents without needing to subscribe to a plan. This tool is, however, very basic and limited to what can actually be done.
How does Office 365 compare to other Cloud-Based Systems?
Before you decide to make the all-important change from traditional to cloud-based systems, you want to be well-informed.
Although Microsoft’s Office 365 comes with a plethora of benefits, including advanced security features and the option to choose from multiple plans, there are other cloud-based systems offering similar features and benefits to Microsoft’s Office 365 – for example, Zoho’s Workplace or Google’s G Suite.
Do your research and test different cloud systems out before you decide on the one that’s best for you and your business.
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Silverbug who offer IT consulting services and IT support solutions to businesses nationally. They have 24 hour IT support and project manage new installations.
Last updated - 21st February, 2018