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Microsoft releases next-generation Office 365 for business

February 27, 2013 • Software

Barely a month after unveiling its new Office and Office 365 Home Premium for consumers, Microsoft has launched a major update to its Microsoft Office 365 services for business.

Microsoft has launched a major update to its Microsoft Office 365 services for business (image: Microsoft)

Billed as Microsoft’s most complete Office cloud service to date, the release has new collaboration features and offerings specifically tailored to the needs and budgets of small, medium and large organisations.

In addition to updated email, video-conferencing, instant messaging and calendaring services, business users can now get the Office applications they are familiar with on up to five devices, delivered as an always up-to-date cloud service.

Major new features in Office 365 include enhanced enterprise social capabilities with SharePoint and Yammer, and by June, it will include Lync-Skype connectivity for presence, IM, and voice.

“With Office 365, everyone from large enterprises to small businesses to individual consumers can now benefit from the power of Office and the connectivity of the cloud,” said Uriel Rootshtain, Office lead at Microsoft South Africa. “This release unlocks new scenarios and delivers capabilities that far surpass anything available in browser-only solutions.”

Rootshtain is particularly excited about the local potential of the Office 365 Small Business Premium offering, which is designed for businesses with 1 to 10 employees. In addition to the complete set of Office applications, this service includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD video conferencing in an easy-to-manage service that doesn’t require IT expertise. The estimated retail price is R1 600 per user for an annual subscription, the equivalent of R133.33 per user per month.

The National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) has been one of the first organisations in South Africa to adopt Office 365. NSBC founder Mike Anderson says they are already seeing benefits around greater mobility, cost-effectiveness and time-saving.

“Small businesses have to do more with less. It’s about staying close to your customers, focusing on your business differentiators, and being more agile than competitors. For us, Office 365 allows us to work from virtually anywhere, be productive on the go, collaborate better, and work together and smarter,” said Anderson.

“It’s all about state-of-the-art communication, professionalism, your image, document sharing, data-back-up, being ahead of the game, and completely mobile, securely in the cloud, and having your office at your fingertips.”

Another new Office 365 offering being released today is Office 365 Midsize Business, which provides midsize businesses with the enterprise-quality communication and collaboration tools they want, and the simplified IT tools they need to maintain control while reducing complexity.  Active Directory integration, a web-based administration console and business hours phone support are also included. Pricing is R1 750 per user for an annual subscription, the equivalent of R145.83 per user per month.

The new Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business will be available alongside the already available Office 365 Enterprise and Office 365 for Education offerings, with the new functionality added in this service update.
Since launching in mid-2011, Office 365 has been one of the fastest growing businesses in Microsoft history. After only 18 months, one in five of Microsoft’s enterprise customers now has the paid service, and the number of small and medium sized businesses using Office 365 has grown by 150% in the last 12 months.

Staff writer

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