Choosing the right Microsoft Office product for your business needs

By Ruben Naicker, Microsoft Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

Microsoft Office is an essential tool for any business no matter what size – it is the de facto standard for word processing, spreadsheets and more, and has become indispensable whether a business has five users or five thousand. However, choosing the right version of Office to meet the needs of your business, and your budget, can be a challenging task. From ensuring the right functionality to getting the best value for money, the correct version of Office will be a valuable business asset.

The first decision to make is whether to purchase a solution outright or to adopt a ‘per month’ or ‘pay as you use’ model. Buying the solution outright is the traditional method of obtaining software – users can select either Office Home & Business 2013, which features Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, or Office Professional 2013, which has these solutions as well as Publisher and Access. Individual components can also be purchased separately. However, this model has become somewhat outdated as the cloud has gained traction. Purchasing the software outright only permits users to install it on a single computer, which makes mobility difficult to achieve since users cannot work seamlessly across devices. It also does not give users access to the latest version of the solution, meaning that software becomes out of date. For this reason, Office 365 is fast becoming the preferred way of accessing the power of this essential software suite.

Office 365 is available in several different versions aimed at the small and medium business as well as the large enterprise user. These versions have a variety of features that make them ideally suited to each business segment. They are available for a modest monthly fee, or a discounted annual fee, making them highly affordable. Full versions offer the full Office suite, with additional functionality that makes them ideal for business. In addition, from 01 October 2014, users will be able to ‘mix and match’ their solution, tailoring their Office 365 experience to meet their business’ precise needs by selecting the Office 365 product they need on a per user basis. This enables small business users who may need enterprise features for a single user to gain this advantage in a cost effective manner.

The Office 365 offerings for business offer a number of benefits for users. These include a custom domain name that enables users to create their own website and business email addresses. This is billed on a per user basis, so small businesses can set up ghost email addresses such as [email protected] as well as their personal business email address for no additional charge. The inclusion of Microsoft Lync, previously a large enterprise productivity tool, allows users from small and medium enterprises to host online meetings and Video Conferences (VC).

In addition, the ability to embrace mobility is one of the biggest advantages of Office 365. The subscription for Small Business Premium and Midsize Business offers a single subscription that can be installed on up to five PC or Mac computers and includes Office for Windows tablets and iPad as well as Office for smartphones that allows users to view and edit Office documents on the go. With the inclusion of 1 Terabyte (TB) of cloud storage per users, this means that you can work from any device in any location, save the document to the cloud and pick up where you left off seamlessly on any other device. This also enables co-authoring and collaboration, allowing for teams to work on a document together and see changes in real time, for enhanced productivity.

Another benefit of Office 365 is automatic access to the latest features and future releases at no additional cost, ensuring that your business is always up to date. The Office 365 roadmap gives customers a sneak preview of features that the team is working on and when the features are targeted for release.  Microsoft public cloud products are also built with integration in mind.  For example, Microsoft is launching a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Online edition for the small business at the end of September 2014, which will integrate to Office 365.

While Office 365 is available directly from Microsoft’s website, in order to leverage the best value, a certified reseller is recommended. These resellers will be able to offer Rand-based pricing which includes all import duties and fees as well as VAT, reducing the complexity of the subscription. In addition they are able to offer comprehensive support to ensure users are always up and running for maximum productivity.

When it comes to running a business, Microsoft Office is one tool most users simply cannot afford to be without. Office 365 not only simplifies the process of choosing the right tool for the job, it also offers a host of additional benefits to support productivity in the enterprise of today and the future.

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