Microsoft (Office) 365 Business – and its advantages
(Feel free to skip ahead to the Best Part)
Microsoft’s Office suite is a household name, with people using Office, Microsoft, and Word interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing! Microsoft even dropped the “Office” part of in their branding, now known simply as Microsoft 365. Available in various variants, starting with personal licencing such as individual and family options, and then moving over to the business packages. Included are Microsoft’s OneDrive, one of the most cost-effective cloud storage solutions available, providing each user with their own 1TB of space.
Microsoft 365 Family, where up to five additional people can connect to the primary account, is used by a lot of SME owners in South Africa. So, why would an SME in South Africa spend extra Rands for Microsoft’s business version? (Apart from the obvious breach of the licencing terms and conditions…😉)
In both my capacity as an SME business owner, and in my position of managing other SMEs IT infrastructure, here are my reasons why Microsoft 365 Business has a spot on the operating costs account:
1. Secure Cloud Storage
Users receive 1TB of cloud storage, accessible from any device connected to the internet. Changes made on one device will sync across all devices. Files can even be edited in a browser version of Word or Excel. Easily share data between co-workers internally, or with clients outside your organisation, but with more control over the security of what you share.
SharePoint is an extension on how Microsoft enables clients to share data. Organisations can use SharePoint to create websites as data access portals for anyone with the correct permissions. Enterprise level indexing and search functions provide further content management and collaboration, although more suitable to larger businesses.
2. Centralised Collaboration
Dependent on the cloud storage aspect, but integral to the networking facet of modern offices, are the development of Microsoft’s collaboration tools. Share mailboxes (never have sales or support miss an email), calendars (see who is available when), or co-author documents together in real time. With the move towards remote work, or even in a more traditional multi office or branch structure, these expanded toolsets are especially useful.
Teams’ integration expands traditional messaging options such as email. Real time group or individual text conversations, sharing data, video conferencing, and even screen sharing. Scheduling meetings internally or book appointments with clients. Use the @ feature to tag relevant people, either internal or external to your organisation.
4. Privacy and Access Control
Granular control over data access, or even preventing data from leaving your organisation’s distributed network is available. Consider a client’s confidential RICA documents: through security groups and custom permissions, it can be set that only your accounts department have access to the files, but not sales or marketing. It can even prevent attaching and emailing a confidential document to the wrong person or someone outside your organisation!
Starting with the basics, Business versions comes with enforced 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) and password control, all with the aim of preventing lax security habits in your company. Again, granular control policies will ensure that only staff with the correct permissions have access to more sensitive data.
More advanced enterprise grade security options are available, with modular implementation (e.g., director’s systems vs secretarial). Advanced threat analysis (ATA) that can monitor networks for suspicious activity, data encryption, and the ubiquitous spam, phishing, and ransomware protection.
Never underestimate the importance of an always up to date system, patching zero-day vulnerabilities is critical to prevent exploitation.
With files synced to the cloud and accessible from multiple devices, recovering from hardware failure or loss is as easy as logging into a different device. Files and even configuration options will simply propagate to the new device, with minimal interruption or downtime.
7. The Best Part
Now, if any of that sounded only vaguely important, but you would rather visit the dentist than think too much about it, here is the best part:
With Microsoft 365 Business, you can delegate all the prickly nerd stuff to us, the nerds, leaving you free to focus on your actual business. Microsoft is fully aware that most clients do not have the technical inclination to focus on the security aspects of managing data or systems security. Therefore, they provide the option for third parties to assist, manage, and provide oversight on behalf of the actual clients.
It provides the option for an SME to have enterprise grade security, without the cost and hassles that a large organisation must put up with due to their scale. That is the biggest advantage of Microsoft 365 Business – #StressFreeIT!