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Office 365 delivers familiar Office collaboration and productivity tools to business users through the cloud so they can be productive anytime and anywhere on any device — from PCs and notebooks to tablets and smartphones. It is Microsoft’s successor to Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), which was the company’s first foray into cloud computing.
BPOS helped businesses establish messaging and collaboration infrastructures quickly and without the upfront cost and expertise required for deploying such services on premises. Under the BPOS model, servers running Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server and Office Live Meeting were hosted online in Microsoft-managed data centers and delivered to customers as cloud-based services known as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Office Communications Online.
Office 365 extends and improves upon that model in several ways. First, the cloud-based server infrastructure behind Office 365 now uses the most recent versions of Microsoft’s messaging and collaboration platforms: Exchange 2010, which powers the Exchange Online service; SharePoint 2010 for SharePoint Online; and Lync Server 2010 for Lync Online, which replaces Office Communications Online. Microsoft Global Foundation Services hosts these servers at data centers distributed around the world.
When a business signs up for a subscription to Office 365, the service’s hosted environment is automatically provisioned at an appropriate data center based on geographical location. Each individual organization’s Office 365 users are hosted at the same data center.
Also, users access services in Office 365 differently than in BPOS. BPOS employed the traditional model of one application per desktop and required users to install the apps they needed locally on their client systems. By contrast, Office 365 uses a software as a service (SaaS) approach, delivering a single app to multiple users (irrespective of their locations or devices) via a cloud infrastructure.
With Office 365, a company’s employees use Word Web App to edit a document hosted on a SharePoint Online team site. Word Web is a browser-based version of Microsoft Word that works with hosted documents directly from web browsers.
The SaaS approach eliminates the hassles associated with deploying and maintaining client apps. It can also save money because it is subscription based and generally costs less than licensing traditional desktop apps.
Office 365 is also easier to administer and maintain because the management and security overhead are offloaded to a service provider instead of being handled in house. And it’s more convenient: staff can access data whenever they want, from wherever they are working.
Depending on the type of Office 365 subscription purchased, users can also download and install full Office Professional Plus 2010 programs. These full versions can provide advanced functionality not available in the simpler Web Apps.