Microsoft Office 365, the cloud-based, AI-enhanced version of the familiar Office software suite, is used by the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies. And now that businesses of all sizes are increasing their remote work capabilities at breakneck speed, Office 365 is seeing even higher rates of adoption. Why is that?
It promises to deliver everything a business needs to stay productive and secure while working remotely, but so does G Suite from Google, and there are many third party apps making the claim as well. So why are so many businesses choosing Office 365 over the alternatives to create their remote work environments? There are several distinct reasons, so let’s take a closer look at the major ones.
What is Office 365 and what apps are included?
Office 365 is powered by Microsoft and enables you to perform business processes online with a collection of tools allowing you to create, collaborate, share, and store your work in the cloud.
It offers Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and more. With Office 365, you have access to online versions of Microsoft Office as well as the desktop versions. This is a big distinction for many businesses since the desktop versions of familiar applications like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are extremely desirable. Rich in features, these applications are the best of their kind on the market.
It makes working with other organizations easier
One of the reasons a lot of businesses choose Office 365 is because a lot of other businesses use Office 365. This seems like circular reasoning until you consider how much productivity can be lost due to incompatibility. If a company is collaborating with a partner organization that uses a different suite of software, slowdowns, frustration, and other problems are a constant risk.
Businesses in their startup phase often choose a cheaper, leaner suite of tools like G Suite, then run into problems when they grow large enough to work with more established companies, who typically use Office 365. Having to convert documents is a pain at the best of times, as is learning to use new, redundant apps. The risk of errors, as well as possible resentment from the partner company, grows exponentially.
But since Office 365 apps are so well integrated with each other, it makes collaborating with other organizations who use the same apps simple and easy. This mitigates many of the risk factors posed by remote work, while increasing productivity and improving partner relations. So if a company has ambitions to join the big leagues, using Office 365 presents the organization as a mature operation.
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Ability to scale
The ability to grow along with your productivity solutions is a huge factor for many businesses. While basic plans and simple solutions will do for small businesses just getting started, they don’t offer a substantial long-term solution for a growing business.
Many established companies have chosen Office 365, with more than 90% of Fortune 500 firms using at least one cloud enterprise service. Anyone doing business with Fortune 500 companies and other large established vendors can more seamlessly collaborate if they are already set up with Office 365. Starting with Microsoft’s solutions gets your business ahead of the game, reducing future business-to-business headaches.
Cybersecurity is a concern at all times for every business, but for those transitioning to remote work it becomes absolutely critical. Home devices and networks are not nearly as secure as their office counterparts, so business leaders must take more precautions and use the most secure software available to protect their data. Fortunately for Microsoft users, Office 365 operates on the most well defended cloud platform on the market.
As a titan of the tech industry, Microsoft has invested more into their cloud platform security than any other company. Office 365 does not bring the security flaws of many third party remote work apps, and boasts several advanced security features that G Suite and the third parties cannot match.
Office 365 communication and collaboration tools, like Teams for virtual meetings and Outlook for email, all support encryption. They are also designed with compliance in mind, making it easy for users to meet requirements for HIPAA, BAA, FISMA, various EU regulations, and many more. Office 365 also offers add-ons for additional layers of security, like active threat detection. These are bonuses in a traditional office environment, but in a vulnerable remote work environment they are vital.
Better for collaboration
So Office 365 delivers integration and security at the organizational level, but what about the employees on the ground using these apps day in and day out? For collaboration, office 365 includes real time, synchronous communication tools such as Teams and Yammer, as well as asynchronous communication tools like the Outlook and the Exchange email solutions. These generally have a steeper learning curve than their G Suite or third party counterparts, but they make up for it with better features, integration, and security.
The familiar Outlook and Exchange email platforms are highly encrypted and easy to use, so they fit the bill for secure remote working. Competitors like Gmail are comparable in functionality, but where Office 365 pulls ahead is in the real time collaboration capabilities of Teams.
Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that provides chat, video meetings, and file sharing. It’s integrated with the other applications of the Office 365 platform. Google’s similar Meet and Hangouts collaboration tools are easy to set up and use right away, but their bare bones features aren’t suited for business use. Instead, many G Suite users resort to third party products like Slack or Workplace. These standalone apps offer some of the functionality of Teams, but they come with standalone pricing whereas Teams is included with Office 365 plans.
Furthermore, Office 365’s Teams beats out the third party apps in many areas. For example, with premium paid plans from Slack, users can make conference calls with up to 15 participants. With Teams, users can hold video conferences with up to 250 participants, regardless of the Office 365 plan they are on. Similarly, the security of Teams’ virtual meeting and conferencing platform is fully developed, without the failings evolving third party apps like Zoom are experiencing.
So while a G Suite + 3rd party hybrid solution might seem useful in a pinch to communicate with a remote workforce, it simply isn’t as capable as Office 365 Teams. If a business is going to take remote work seriously and set up an environment of seamless communication comparable to working in the office, the all-inclusive toolset of Office 365 is better in the long run.
The bottom line
If your business works with larger organizations, or aspires to, you should choose Office 365 to ensure your documentation, processes, and security protocols align. The same holds true if you’re transitioning to a remote work environment but want to maintain the option of desktop versions of commonly used office applications like Outlook, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
If you work entirely online and only need an email provider, G Suite may be the right option for your business. Since many of the G Suite resources are free to use, many new business owners are already familiar with tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets. Choose this option if you have no plans to expand your business or work with organizations that are already established on Office 365.
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