A couple of years ago, I bought a Dell server with the intent of installing Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 and running my own Exchange, SharePoint, and Internet Information Services (IIS). Although not a server or a networking expert, I was confident my geeky tendency to pick up new software technology quickly would get me to a point where I could run my small business like a big enterprise but on a limited budget.
I looked forward in excitement to the day one month later (okay, maybe two; I was a one-woman show!) when I would have my system up and running, all stable and seamlessly connecting me to enterprise-quality email with shared contacts and calendars to wow my clients. I dreamed of the day when I would be able to collaborate online with my team members across the globe using all the bells and whistles that came with SharePoint. I rushed to the Microsoft store to borrow four books on Windows Small Business Server 2008 installation and configuration and like a girl about to go out on her first date, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come so I could start working on my server.
As it turned out, installing and configuring SBS 2008 was the easy part. I soon realized that running my own server meant I now had to function not only as the CEO/CMO/COO/CFO but also the IT department! The communications and collaboration part of the whole deal was theoretically fun but I didn’t want to be bogged down worrying about data security and protection, patch management, network stability, and a host of other non-fun stuff! In the end, I opted for Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) which later on became Office 365.
Unlike the shock I experienced when I realized what it would take to administer my own server, Office 365 administration is easy, intuitive, and even fun! It took me less than 20 minutes to set up my globally-distributed organization of nine people. For $6 a month per user on a professional and small business plan, I get Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and a public facing website. Best of all, I get premium anti-virus and anti-spam security, and 99.9% uptime guarantee.
In the end, the 6” stack of books with nightmarish chapters like Planning for Disaster Recovery, Security and System Health Management, and Macintosh Integration went back to the library in pristine condition. And the Dell server? It’s sitting in a corner of our family room gathering dust and a constant source of curiousity for our cat, Patches. It also serves as a reminder that if I ever need an enterprise-class productivity feature, Office 365 will most likely have an app for that.
If you are a one-man-show professional or a small business not needing more than 50 user accounts, Office 365’s pay-as-you-go set of web-enabled tools will most likely serve your needs. The professional and small business plans include email and calendar, Office Web Apps, SharePoint sites for collaboration, a public-facing website, and instant messaging (IM) and online meetings. Although this plan does not come with live support, free customer support is available at the Office 365 Community comprised of top-notch IT professionals and selfless experts who share their vast knowledge about Office 365.
So what are you waiting for? In 2012, harness the power of Office 365 to run your business like a big enterprise. You have the opportunity take advantage of the latest cloud technology to compete with the big guys on a level playing field.
About the Author
Jennifer Reed is many things: Author, Office 365 for Dummies; tech enthusiast experienced in HTML, web design and development, cloud technologies, and anything nerdy; agile practitioner and a certified project management professional. Disclosure: Although the author is an employee of Microsoft Corporation, the opinions and views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of her employer.