A Beginner’s Guide to Office 365

The requirements of operating a small-to-medium sized business (SMB) is increasingly revolving around the concept of cloud computing data, speed of access and organization wide use, and lower operating and running costs. Now that the cloud computing models are perceived with greater business cost savings and higher operational efficiencies, it is only natural that office applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, and database management reflect the trends and preferences.

This is why Microsoft responded with its Office 365 to help businesses leverage their online, cloud-networking operations to the next level. Office 365 has already surpassed Google Apps as the preferred cloud-based productivity suite. According to an in-depth review article from PCWorld, Office 365 is the clear winner among online productivity suites and email tools for businesses.

If you are a SMB that intends to use Office 365, then the following guide will prove to be a major help.

Office 365 – What is it?

Office 365 is an online application suite developed by Microsoft to let businesses enjoy the same set of software applications that we are all used to – Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and more. The purpose of the Office 365 is to let businesses use the software applications on a needs-basis through a subscription pricing model instead of purchasing the entire application suite.

Getting started

Getting started with your Office 365 involves undertaking a number of steps after you have signed up for your Office 365 account. The steps are as follows:

1. Select your domain and create user accounts

You can easily add your own domain to your Office 365 if you intend to access e-mail from your official company account. You also have the option of selecting the domain provided by Office 365. Once you have selected your option, you will then need to create user accounts with password protection to be able to log in and access Office 365 programs.

2. Set your e-mail account

The Office 365 is accessible via an Exchange Online and Outlook Web App. The Exchange Online App allows you to manage your contacts, e-mail, and calendar all-in-one in a single application via the Outlook Web App. When you create your user accounts as outlined in the previous step, Office 365 provides mailboxes for each user account you create.  However, you as an administrator have control over the settings for each user account and the mailboxes.

You can also choose to import your e-mail contacts to your Office 365 e-mail account, depending on which e-mail provider you use. For instance, if you had been using Outlook, you can simple move all the data through your account. It will also let you copy the details and numbers of your contacts.

3. Set up team-site and the necessary documents

Next, you need to set up a team-site, which will contain all the important information and documents that will be accessible from anywhere. Office 365 automatically creates one team-site when signing up so you will simply be required to add the relevant documents and allow your team members access rights to be able to use it. The team members will then also be able to use Office 365 applications such as Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word.

4. Organize your mobile access

Data storage in Office 365 is done in the cloud. This gives you immense convenience and flexibility in accessing data from the comfort of your mobile phones and other devices such as tablet PCs. To set up your personal mobile devices, you will be required to set up Lync for mobile devices or go through the Mobile Phone Setup Wizard.

5. Select online communication channels

Through Lync, a real-time communications tool, you can see which of your coworkers are online and available for messaging, audio and video calls. You even have the option to make presentations using a virtual whiteboard. This has tremendous business opportunities for remote-working and collaborating with teams.

6. Create a public website

Using SharePoint Online, you can create your very own professional-looking website for your organization. If you already have a website, you can simply point Office 365 to your current website.

7. Make everyone familiar

As soon as the setup process for Office 365 is complete, you can let your team members know and provide them with the relevant instructions and guidance on how to make the most out of it. You can notify them via e-mail and let them know of their user access rights and permissions.


Get ready for Office 2016 – A Complete Guide

On Tuesday, 22nd September 2015, Microsoft officially announced the international roll out of its latest application suite product, Office 2016. The suite will be an addition to its Office 365 cloud-based application bundle service that aims to meet the contemporary needs of enterprises, at a low cost.

Microsoft has revealed that its Office 2016 application suite will offer a new desktop app version for its Windows apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook to foster better teamwork and facilitate collaboration needs and objectives.

“These latest innovations take another big step forward in transforming Office from a familiar set of individual productivity apps to a connected set of apps and services designed for modern working, collaboration and teamwork”

— Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

With its launch of the Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft is set to provide an ecosystem of different business solutions for enterprises. Businesses that are Office 365 subscribers can choose to download the new Office 2016 applications as part of their subscription.

What is new in Office 2016?

Team collaboration and productivity are at the forefront with the latest release of the Office suite. Businesses operate in a highly competitive environment and barriers to communication and agility usually prove to hinder greater profitability and business growth. Requirements such as the need to be constantly mobile and work remotely for instance, cannot be met by using older application bundles and suites. Office 2016, as an addition to Office 365, can help fulfill enterprise requirements better.

“The way people work has changed dramatically, and that’s why Microsoft is focused on reinventing productivity and business processes for the mobile-first, cloud-first world. These latest innovations take another big step forward in transforming Office from a familiar set of individual productivity apps to a connected set of apps and services designed for modern working, collaboration and teamwork”

–Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Tools for team collaboration

The additions to Office 2016 allow for higher productivity with features such as co-authoring on Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote, which allows users to type in real-time in Word while others work on the same document, essentially facilitating editing as content is developed. Skype in-app integration is also included across the client apps, allowing you to talk, video chat, and message instantly. Furthermore, the new Office 2016 includes the Office 365 Groups, which can be accessed easily from your mobile devices via the Outlook Groups App. This shared consistency helps to keep time lost in business communication to an absolute minimum.

In addition, the newly introduced Office 365 Planner and GigJam offer unprecedented benefits for teams’ task organization, task management, and planning. This helps to remove communication barriers between different departments and across different teams, giving a significant boost to task completion.

 Additions to Windows apps

Microsoft had upgraded its apps to work smarter and faster, including better integration with cloud apps. The following are the changes introduced to each of its apps:

Word: Microsoft Word has been added with a number of features to provide better context for richer documents. As opposed to the limited number of options that would pop up when right clicking a highlighted word, the new Word 2016 displays options such as word translations, search for synonyms, and so on.

More importantly, Microsoft has introduced the Smart Lookup feature. This allows users to automatically look for relevant information in the Bing search engine by choosing the Smart Lookup option from the list of options presented when right clicking or typing Smart Lookup in the Tell Me box.  This feature allows users to benefit from a closely integrated Microsoft experience.

Excel: The Excel 2016 application has been integrated with the feature to publish large spreadsheet data for business intelligence purposes. This, along with new chart types, allows business users to make the most out of their data by scanning for important insights for better decision making.

Outlook: The Outlook application is adjusted for better email management, providing the smartest inbox coupled with lightning quick search tools, automatic deletion of unimportant and low priority e-mails via its Clutter tool. More importantly, the feature to include cloud-based attachments is another plus for businesses that can easily integrate their work from cloud services.

Security features

Enterprise security is the most important concern of CEOs and other executives owing to the intensity of data security threats and the number of data breaches faced by organizations in general. Microsoft has not neglected this concern with the recent release and has provided a range of capabilities for advanced data protection.

This consists of integrating built-in data loss prevention mechanism across Excel, Word, and PowerPoint to ensure that sensitive data does not leak easily. IT administrators are also provided with multifactor authentication tools that provide a far better data security than one-dimensional encryption tools. This will allow users to access their data anywhere in a secure manner without having to worry about data loss or theft.

Lastly, Microsoft is also expected to release Enterprise Data Protection for the Office Mobile apps for its latest Windows 10 operating system as well as for desktop use next year that will provide enterprises with exceptional data security protocols for safer business operations.


How the Cloud Wars Will Benefit Your Small Business

pricedropThe battle of big-name tech companies has begun, as big names like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all fight to become champions of the cloud computing sector. As the technology goes more mainstream, major companies are each striving to provide the best services at the lowest prices.

This is all good news for consumers and businesses, a tech expert recently pointed out. Mashable’s chief correspondent Lance Ulanoff documented the moves these companies are making, which include Microsoft’s offering of 200 GB of free cloud storage for Surface 2 buyers, Amazon’s offering of free unlimited storage for photos taken with its new Amazon Fire phone, and Apple’s 20 GB of storage for $0.99 per month.

The Business Benefits

Over time, consumers are getting more for less, allowing even small businesses to take advantage of big business technology without exceeding their budget limits. Since the current focus is on file storage, this means businesses can encourage their employees to use cloud-based file storage services like Amazon Cloud Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

On an enterprise level, this increase in inexpensive storage means the move to cloud file storage may happen sooner than many businesses anticipated. Amazon’s competitive pricing has already impacted its EC2 and S3 storage, recently announcing its 42nd price reduction since 2008.

The Time to Buy

As these players struggle to compete in a cloud-evolving world, this may be the best time for businesses to buy in. Amazon is pushing sales of its new smartphone while Microsoft is trying to lure consumers to Office 365. To boost subscribers, Microsoft recently added Office functionality to the iPad with the stipulation that customers must subscribe to 365 to access all the features.

If your business has been considering a move to the cloud, this may be a great time to make the change. As the competition continues to heat up, users will benefit from lower prices and increased services, making cloud affordable for businesses of all sizes.

About Microsoft’s new Office 365 service, and what it means to small business – Part Two

Let’s continue with our look at Microsoft’s new Office 365 service that we began last week:

Safety and security:

One concern we hear from customers is on cloud security – how safe is our data if it’s not sitting on our hard drives? Will it always be accessible?

Microsoft, in its marketing literature, promises a “99.9% Uptime Guarantee”.  In addition to that, Office 365 builds on the security protocols that Microsoft has had in place for many years with their widely used Office Exchange servers.  So rather than trusting your data to a new program, you’re actually benefiting from many years of proven security.

Microsoft also offers its Service Level Agreement, which it backs with financial milestones.  Lastly, Microsoft promises that Office 365’s servers are geo-redundant with multiple datacenters, so even if one area of the service runs into issues, your data will keep being accessible through the redundancies.

Subscription plans:

Rather than offering a one-time flat fee, Office 365 is a subscription-based program.  The subscription levels vary based on the level of service required, and begin at $2 per user, per month and scale up to $27 per user, per month.

In conclusion:

Microsoft Office 365 represents an exciting new direction for the Office products, and small businesses should definitely pay close attention to it as a new way of bringing their business closer together.

About Microsoft’s new Office 365 service, and what it means to small business – Part One

Microsoft Office 365 is Microsoft’s newest entry in the Office series of products.  It is a cloud-based platform, which means that all of the programs are stored and accessible online, rather than being on a local hard drive.

When we say “Office in a Cloud”, the first thing you may think of is simply having the usual Office programs – Excel, Word, etc. – hosted on the web instead of on your hard drive.  While this is the case (though some subscriptions to Microsoft Office 365 allow for hard drive downloads of these basic programs), Office 365 promises to greatly expand on this core functionality to make itself an “all in one” solution to your professional consultancy or small business.

Let’s take a look at what Microsoft Office 365 offers over the traditional versions of the program:

Available anywhere:

As with all cloud programs, one of Office 365’s big “claims to fame” is that you can use its services anywhere – on any of your computers (home or work), your mobile devices, your tablet, and much more.  Rather than having to worry about what files and programs are on which computer, now all of your computers are on exactly the same page with one another.

This also means that your Microsoft Exchange data, including contacts, emails and calendars are also always in sync with one another, no matter what platform you’re viewing them on.

Collaborative access:

Let’s imagine that you have an Excel document you’re working on with other people in your business.  In the past, each person would make changes and then email it along to another – a chain that leads to terrible version control issues, errors, and much more.

With Office 365, users can edit Excel spreadsheets with others in real time.  All changes are tracked and documented, so you can always be sure you’re working on the latest version of the Excel file, every time.

A Look At The Major Cloud Computing Players – Microsoft

Cloud Computing is a hot topic in technology circles – the technology is consistently getting better and better, and more and more companies are coming into the cloud computing fold.

With so much going on in the cloud space, we wanted to provide a few blog entries designed to help you recognize some of the major players in the industry, and understand what they have to offer.

In this blog entry, we’ll focus on Microsoft.


Microsoft primarily focuses on two areas in Cloud Computing:

– Microsoft Office 365:

This is the cloud version of Microsoft’s widely used Office suite.  In the cloud version of Office, users are able to access Office from anywhere and on a variety of devices – from smart phones to a work computer to a home laptop.

Office 365 also brings advances to collaboration tools – for instance, 365 users can see each other’s availability for scheduling, or work together through social networking.

– Windows Azure:

Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform, which provides a wide variety of services.  IT specialists can move a company’s existing applications into the Azure cloud, or develop new web applications using Azure’s proven technology.

In Conclusion:

Microsoft is bringing some of its staple products to the Cloud, and it will be interesting to see how companies move to adopt the new offerings over the next year.

Stay tuned to our blog for more perspectives on other Cloud players like Amazon Web Services, Google and Rackspace.