Accessing productivity solutions in the cloud not only allows businesses to improve performance, but helps keep IT costs low.

By now, the vast majority of business leaders appreciate the potential benefits of moving to the cloud. Hosted services have been a hot topic in recent years, as the outsourced service delivery model becomes more popular within the world of enterprise. An ever-greater proportion of businesses are moving to the cloud, some faster than others, in order to benefit from the specialist expertise
offered by third-party vendors.

Business leaders recognise the advantage of the cloud in terms of cost reduction, scalability, productivity, security and agility. But they need to be able to embrace hosted services on their own terms, in a way which suits the individual characteristics of their organisations. Firms must have the flexibility to set their own course into the cloud, and move at their own pace - there can be no one-size-fits-all approach.

Microsoft Office 365 is designed to assist companies which have advanced IT requirements, and a need to drive efficiencies within the technology function. The software package - accessible to any company with fast and reliable connectivity - enables companies and their employees to achieve more, at a faster rate and by consuming fewer resources. So in terms of maximising return on investment from a low total cost of ownership, it is proving to be a major asset for companies of all sizes.

Boosting productivity with Office 365

The use of Microsoft solutions in the cloud helps reduce capital expenditure, by enabling firms to move to an opex-based model investment. This offers an immediate boost for companies, with firms able to spend less on the software solutions they need and preserve a greater proportion of their IT budgets. On a practical level, these hosted software solutions help employees do their jobs more effectively - boosting productivity and helping firms boost the bottom line.

Businesses can use Office 365 for a variety of functions. The hosted services package offers full Microsoft Office functionality in the cloud, along with document sharing, enterprise mobility and website management options. Email, office web apps, instant messaging, conferencing and security tools are also available to users via the hosted model. This means that, for a relatively small level of investment, companies can access highly sophisticated IT tools.

The upshot of this is that business leaders and employees are able to perform their roles more effectively. With a high-level of IT support, and a wide variety of online options, they can reduce the time taken to perform both critical and discretionary tasks. This means individuals can get more done in each working day, boosting productivity rates and contributing to better overall organisational performance.

Working flexibly with Office 365

In the digital age, the wide availability of online solutions is helping to break down traditional geographical barriers in business. Historically, employees were only able to work productively at their desks or workstation in the office, where they had access to all the tools and information needed to perform their daily duties. But the advent of the internet has changed all this. With employees able to access files, documents and communications remotely - from virtually any location with an internet connection - the link between a workplace presence and productivity has been broken.

As a cloud-based solution, Office 365 is available to business leaders and employees anywhere with a reliable internet connection. This could be a study or office at home, hooked up to the internet with a home broadband connection. Or it could be on a train in to work, with in-carriage Wi-Fi providing connectivity for a smartphone or media tablet. The wider availability of mobile broadband - and increasing download and upload speeds available over 3G and 4G networks -  mean there are increasingly few places where productive work cannot take place.

People are able to communicate and collaborate in real-time across multiple locations using Office 365. So even if they are working in a close team unit, there is no need for people to be in the same physical space. Individual users can access and work on documents simultaneously, with the changes they make instantly appearing on all other users' versions. This helps eliminate the endless rounds of emails, as colleagues share their own contributions with co-workers - and also the inevitable delays, duplications and lost productivity associated with this process.

Keeping IT costs low while boosting performance

Accessing productivity solutions in the cloud is a win-win situation for businesses. Firstly, they are able to take advantage of industry leading IT tools which can make a tangible difference to individual and collective performance and boost the bottom line. And secondly, they can be sourced with very little upfront investment in infrastructure, helping to preserve vital IT budgets.

With Office 365, the software is supported by a Microsoft data centre, alleviating the pressure on firms to invest large sums in on-premise hardware. As well as reducing capital expenditure, it also means companies can reduce their management bills, and free up IT workers to focus on other areas where value can be added.

The use of hosted productivity solutions also has security benefits, in the sense that the product vendor assumes responsibility for servers and other critical hardware. Benefiting from economies of scale, the provider is able to invest more on security than individual companies would be able to do alone. This means companies are able to benefit from unprecedented levels of security, without the need to make a significant investment out of their own budget.

Posted by Steven Woodgate

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