Last week I described how saving money and ease of use attracts small businesses to subscribe to Office 365 and today, more gaps in Google's productivity offering for businesses come to mind. With thousands of customers adopting Office 365, it is clear that they value the ability to collaborate from anywhere, and access information at any time, online or offline. With this new freedom in convenient online and offline access through integrated tools, Office 365 users tell us that they can often be more responsiveness to customers.

Office 365 provides communications over a range of media: web conferencing, email, Internet, instant messaging and voice. It's powerful, current, IT tools help businesses project the image of an innovative and prestigious company. After all, the suite enables users to create, manage and share high quality documents with customers, and unlike with Google Docs, Office 365 customers always deliver the document as it was intended.

Anytime, Anywhere Access
Unlike Google Apps which requires web connectivity, with Office 365, since desktop apps run locally on your PC for the best performance and user experience, you can still be productive, even when you are not connected to the Internet. Office 365 provides anywhere access to email, important documents, contacts, and calendar on nearly any device. Users work where and when they choose, responding to important requests right away. In particular, Windows Phone and Office 365 enables infoWAN's IT management consultants in Germany to stay organized and connected with anywhere access to email, important documents, contacts, and calendars. Their combination of Windows Phone connected to Office 365 cloud services, which includes Office, Exchange Online, Lync Online, and SharePoint Online, allows infoWAN consultants to access the latest information, making key business decisions at their customers' sites in real time.

Travelers Haven employees who are testing Office 365 have been most excited about Microsoft Lync Online, the instant messaging and videoconferencing component of Office 365, for their housing business. Other providers' unified communications capabilities pale in comparison to the Lync capabilities in Office 365. According to Travelers Haven's Elia Wallen:

"We use Lync Online to talk to our remote people constantly. Even people sitting 20 feet away from one another use it to converse; I bet we send more than 1,000 instant messages a day. And unlike AOL, we can save our instant messaging conversations."

Using Lync Online, employees working in different states can communicate as if they were in the same room. Wallen now feels comfortable opening up offices around the country. He says:

"Email can seem aloof, and tone is often hard to read. Phone calls make for more pleasant contact, but video takes it to the next level. Videoconferencing has not achieved wide use because it is exhausting to connect separate tools. Lync Online does that for us and is very powerful; it is just like being there."

Here is an example of how companies use Lync capabilities in Office 365 for videoconferencing.

Projecting a Strong Business Image
With Office 365, Mark Nikel of Mark Nikel Professional Corporation is enhancing his business image by improving client service, and expects increases in client referrals and revenue. He says:

"I used to be a partner at a large firm, where we had IT staff and large budgets. There was no way a small law firm could afford these advanced capabilities like access from anywhere. But with Office 365 it makes it possible for a small firm like mine to have these same capabilities without a large IT investment."

So, how does Office 365 stand apart? With 750 million people using Office worldwide, you are likely to receive Office documents from your customers or partners quite often. There is a caution to keep in mind if you choose to use Google Docs to share Office documents with them. Chances are that Google Docs will improperly re-format Office documents. Presenting poorly formatted documents damages a business' image and hurts productivity when users rush to re-create files. Imagine the impression you would make if your Office file was converted into Google Docs, altering the file formatting you had created. What credibility would that provide for your business? D & L Representative Payee Services, a 2 person nonprofit, experienced just those issues. The company requires constant access to accurate, private client information and originally used Google Apps for multiple online services, including using Google Docs for accessing and sharing documents.

"We're accustomed to using Microsoft Office products and wanted to continue to use them, so the compatibility issues with Google Docs caused concern. We were always worried, for example, that our forms' layouts would be skewed by whatever formats Google chose."

-- Paul Lovette, Vice President, D&L Representative Payee Services

For more about the file fidelity which Office 365 customers experience, see the Microsoft Word, Power Point and Excel demos, and see the Word Web App and Google Documents comparison below.



With Office 365, D&L's president is more responsive in serving clients, providing a high level of service without the support staff that a larger firm might rely on. She can do more with a client in a single visit because she has access to everything she needs without returning to her office. According to Edwina Donaldson:

"I can just download documents from the computer at a client’s apartment, nursing facility, or other residence. That means spending less time tracking down the right paperwork and more time providing services to our clients."

-- Edwina Donaldson, President, D&L Representative Payee Services

With faster report turnaround, the small, stateside real estate advisory firm, D 7 Consulting, is also able to deliver better service to customers by using sophisticated, efficient, IT tools which only larger firms typically acquired before Office 365 was available. With Office 365, small businesses use online conferencing to present to and dialog with customers dynamically, as firms with the kind of IT support not common in smaller firms often do. According to Terrell Woods, who also looked at Google Docs and at Zoho:

"The ability to get a document to a customer by close of business today versus tomorrow morning can speed up a project by two or three days. A customer can submit a change-order so that architects can begin implementing a change that night. Shaving hours out of document delivery time is a huge game-changer."

Watch the D7 Consulting video here:

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Office 365 customers are expanding their businesses and increasing their responsiveness to customers. I am most passionate about Office 365’s ability to help your employees work in new ways, to help you demonstrate your expertise and your service to customers, and help you consistently project a vibrant, company image. -- What is Office 365 helping your small business do?