Office 365 Small Business Premium makes it possible for small businesses to maintain a professional image on nearly any budget. In this final of three blog posts, Jon Orton, senior product manager for Office 365, describes how Office 365 Small Business Premium can help small businesses project a professional image to the customers and talent they’d like to attract.

In today’s fiercely competitive market, first impressions can make or break a new business deal. Keeping up appearances—from your website to business communications—can help keep competitors at bay. You don’t need to spend thousands on website design or IT consultants. With the right tools, you can compete with established companies of all sizes, reach new markets, and outshine your competitors.

Looking Professional with Office 365 Small Business Premium
Microsoft Office 365 Small Business Premium enables small businesses to maintain a professional image on nearly any budget. With business-class email, state-of-the-art web conferencing, a modern website, high-quality documents and presentations, and an easy-to-maintain IT environment, you’ll have the tools you need to project a professional image—both to your customers and to the talent you’d like to attract. And because Office 365 Small Business Premium is in the cloud, you can do all of this at a predictable and low monthly cost—without the need for capital investments.

Business-Class Email
Having a professional presence begins with email addresses branded with your company’s domain name. Sending emails from a business address like you@yourcompany.com instead of the name of an email service (like you@gmail.com or you@yahoo.com) sends the message that your business is here to stay. Office 365 makes it easy for you to bring a custom domain name and use it for your email and public web site.

In addition to a business class email address, small businesses also need the right tools for sending, receiving, and managing email. Office 365 Small Business Premium includes Microsoft Outlook, a premium email client that makes it easy to send messages with rich formatting, tables, and embedded images—using the same familiar formatting and spell-checking tools available in Microsoft Word.

Tools in Outlook help you create a professional email signature to reinforce your company’s brand with each email you send. And, of course, your email has no embedded ads that clutter your message. With the combination of Outlook and Exchange that is provided in Office 365 Small Business Premium, you are enjoying the same professional email tools used by most Fortune 500 companies.

By contrast, Gmail users don’t have the same capabilities. While users can create email with their company-specific domain, Gmail lacks basic functionality such as the ability to sort email by name, subject, or date with one click; the ability to create tables; and the ability to attach email. What’s more, many users find the interface unintuitive and difficult to use.

State-of-the-Art Web Conferencing
Office 365 Small Business Premium makes it possible to hold high-quality web conferences with customers and partners—without the cost of traveling. Guests outside your company can simply join meetings from a web browser, using Lync Web App. You’ll be able to hold high-quality audio- and video-conferences, share your desktop with your customers and partners, and collaborate using a whiteboard. You can also share notes in real time to keep everyone on the same page.

 
Office 365 Small Business Premium is great for ad-hoc meetings, too. You can easily move from instant messaging conversations to online meetings with just a few mouse clicks.

A Modern Website
If your website has up-to-date information and a modern, professional look, it signals a well-run business. Office 365 Small Business Premium provides the tools you need to easily create, publish and maintain a professional-looking website.

You can choose from a number of templates to get the look and feel you want, adding your company logo, text, pictures and videos using easy and intuitive tools. You have the option of including an attractive-looking blog as part of your site so that you can update customers on what’s happening with your business. You can also include sharing buttons that help you reach new customers on Facebook and other social networks.

High-Quality Documents and Presentations
You can also create business materials that are professional and engaging. An enhanced start menu in each of the Office applications helps you access hundreds of templates for creating common business documents. In addition, new alignment guides in Word and PowerPoint make it easy and intuitive to line up shapes, text boxes, and other graphics—so your documents look as if they were polished by a designer. With these tools in hand, it’s easier than ever to create elegant documents and presentations that reflect well on your business.

By contrast, Google Apps users don’t get the same level of professionalism. For example, Google Apps users can lose formatting when opening Office documents in Google Docs, which can cost them many hours of work time. They also have limited tools with which to create presentations. For example, there’s no prebuilt SmartArt-like graphic template, they can’t embed videos directly from desktop into presentations, the ability to create animations are limited, and efforts to cut and paste can be inconsistent.

An Easy-to-Use IT Environment
Office 365 Small Business Premium gives you all of these capabilities in an easy-to-manage service that you can maintain without the need for IT expertise.

The solution includes a new web-based management portal specifically designed for organizations with less than 10 users. The portal makes it easy to manage users, licenses and domains from a simple, clean interface. Office 365 Small Business Premium also includes built-in defenses against spam, viruses, and phishing scams.

Office 365 Small Business Premium provides the highest standard of physical and digital security for your data. To guard against the loss of data in the case of a large-scale disaster, your data is hosted from geographically-distributed datacenters with continuous data backup.  Office 365 Small Business Premium comes with a financially-backed 99.9% uptime service level agreement.

Additionally, the service health dashboard is tailored to your organization. Service health and incident communications are scoped directly to the customers affected, rather than regionally, so you can see the service-health information on the dashboard that pertains to you.  

By contrast, Google Apps’ service health dashboard isn’t specific to each customer. Rather, customers see the status of Google’s overall service for the entire region.

Leveling the Playing Field for Small Businesses
It’s been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Office 365 Small Business Premium helps level the playing field for small businesses–equipping them with enterprise tools without requiring a Fortune 500 company budget.

Using low-cost cloud-based technology to create a professional image, and focusing on what they do best, small businesses can compete effectively against even the most established businesses. Try out the Office 365 Small Business Premium Preview, take a tour, and let us know what you think.