Office 365 and SharePoint show cloud credentials

5th November 2013

Microsoft’s online software packages will gather pace

As the uptake of cloud-based software gathers pace, there is increasing discussion about its pros and cons compared to locally installed software. Microsoft’s SharePoint and Office are two of the most widely used software packages in business and both have online and offline versions. As such, they are also two of the most common products for debate in this area.

Earlier this month, Gartner Research Vice President Jeffrey Mann led a session called Should Microsoft Kill SharePoint, at the annual Gartner ITxpo in Orlando, Florida. The title of the talk was, of course, rhetorical, allowing Mann to delve into the current issues surrounding SharePoint and Office. As part of his talk, Mann explained that there are serious obstacles to using SharePoint Online for organisations:

“Many organizations using SharePoint cannot go to the cloud because they have regulatory restrictions or complex, customized implementations that prevent adopting SharePoint Online. Some third-party add-ons they depend on are not available for the cloud version. Others do not trust the cloud or see no reason to change, so they won’t make the move.”

Mann is right with his first and second points – for some organisations it is not currently feasible or possible to consider using SharePoint Online or Office 365 due to regulatory or technical requirements. For organisations where the factors stopping migration to SharePoint Online or Office 365 are lack of knowledge, trust or motivation, however, it is important that the benefits are clearly understood so that informed decisions can be made.

Both SharePoint Online and Office 365 meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce. The platforms can be accessed from anywhere via any device, meaning staff-members can still work away from the office. Organisations also benefit from always having the latest versions of both platforms. There is no work required for upgrading and time spent supporting the platforms is reduced.

Perhaps the most important points, though, do not espouse benefits, but allay concerns. Security of data is a top priority for any organisation and, for many, the thought of storing their data with a third-party in the cloud is a major concern. In reality, however, an organisation’s on-premise servers are still vulnerable to attack and Microsoft offers far greater security for data than many organisations currently have in place.

Cost is the other main point of concern and it is slightly more difficult to compare. Whereas a Office 2013 license requires only a one-off payment, Office 365 requires an ongoing subscription per user. However, with the offline version, businesses must factor in the extra costs of setup, migration, support and eventually upgrading. Cost differences between the platforms over a set period will vary from organisation to organisation, but 365 does provide a more predictable outlay and a reduction of IT support costs.

It’s true that for certain organisations, cloud-based software packages such as SharePoint Online and Office 365 may simply not be an option. Organisations that require the highest level of security and control over their data may fall into this category and so too organisations that require highly customised software deployments. For the most part, however, we can expect to see uptake continue to rise as cloud-based platforms prove their value, organisations become more comfortable with the idea of storing data in the cloud and company policies are updated to reflect this change.

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