As part of the Real World series, we spoke to Marina Johnson, Chief Information Officer at HSS, about why HSS switched to Microsoft Office 365 after trying Google Apps web services. Here’s what she had to say.

Q: Please tell us about HSS.
Johnson: Founded in 1967, HSS—known as Hospital Shared Services at that time—started as a nonprofit organization that supported hospital needs. Now the biggest part of our business is security. We provide security personnel for hospitals, airports, government entities, and more. We are a major outsourcing company that supports a trained workforce of more than 3,000 employees working in thirteen states. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, we have three, industry-focused divisions and enjoy a ninety one percent customer retention rate.

Q: Why did you want to move email service to the cloud?
Johnson: HSS had been using a POP3 email service hosted by a local ISP that delivered email to Microsoft Outlook client software. We were providing email to about four hundred fifty HSS employees. Because we didn’t have Microsoft Exchange Server with all of its bells and whistles, we patched together ways to share calendars and access the contact list, but it didn’t work very well. We were looking for something more reliable that would allow us to move into the future, so we began to evaluate online solutions in December 2009.

Q: Why did you try Google Apps?
Johnson: We provide outsourcing services for our clients and we believe in that business model, so we use it for our internal functions as well. At first, Google Apps sounded very attractive. You pay a monthly fee and it includes email, shared calendars, user lists, and a backup. I thought it was worth a try.

Q: Why did you switch from Google Apps to Office 365?
Johnson: We were used to Microsoft Office and expected the same level of functionality from Google. We tried Google Apps for almost a year, using Google Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. Employees found that Google lacked a number of important features. For example, they were unable to sort mail by sender or subject and found the Google Mail label system cumbersome. They weren’t able to mark messages that are very important and require immediate attention. We didn’t realize how much we would miss Office features until we didn’t have them.

I was thinking how painful it would be to adopt Google Apps. I talked about our search for an email solution with a Microsoft representative who introduced us to the beta version of Microsoft Office 365. Starting in January 2011 we tested Office 365, which brings together Microsoft Office applications, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—all delivered as cloud services. In August 2011 we adopted the released solution and deployed it to 250 employees.

Q: What benefits are you experiencing with Office 365?
Johnson: As soon as I began working with Office 365, I realized that it’s an advanced, professional, and business-oriented application. It was like coming home. Everything we needed was there, and we knew it would be so much easier for users to adopt than Google Apps.

By using Office 365, we minimize the workload on our IT professionals because we don’t need to manage Exchange Server or the hardware for it, provide access for remote employees in sixteen states, and make sure that somebody is available twenty four hours a day to troubleshoot the system. Instead, we get managed services through Office 365, and we can add subscriptions as needed. This was the biggest factor in our decision. Microsoft also handles security and they do a great job. We are paying for that and feel comfortable doing so. People are really excited to use Lync Online and SharePoint Online. We’re looking into how we can adopt these solutions into our IT infrastructure.

 

Read the full story online. For more success stories like Marina Johnson’s at HSS, read other real-world testimonials on the whymicrosoft website.