Christopher Lentz | June 22, 2015 09:24 PM
I can hear some of you now "What? Why? I love O365". The truth is that Office 365 is a great service offering if you are the right kind of customer. "What is the right kind of customer?", you might ask. Today, I hope to shed some light on the Office 365 product, its value, and its drawbacks. Afterwards, you should have a good idea if O365 is right for your business or startup.
Office 365 is really nothing more than a cloud based version of Exchange Server 2013. Microsoft has obviously added in a few extra bells and whistles to try to sweeten the deal, but we will get into those items later. On its face though, you are really just looking at the Outlook Web Access interface, otherwise known as OWA. Next, they tie in the ability to download the latest versions of the Microsoft Office suite. You know the ones, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook to name a few. If that wasn't sweet enough for you, they also give you website publishing and hosting as well as Sharepoint Foundations for all your intranet goodies.
Because Office 365 is a cloud based service, Microsoft had to create some sort of template or standard upon which they could create every account without allowing for too many variables. However, where Microsoft did really well is in attracting small business and startup companies. The reason these companies fit well with the Office 365 model is that they don't really have much infrastructure yet. Even if they did, it is set up using the basics and no real customization has been done. These customers are the perfect fit for Office 365 for that very reason, simple setup and simple needs.
If your business requires any sort of complex email routing, advanced Public Folders, or simply anything that is a customization of the default features of Microsoft Exchange...Office 365 is NOT for you! Can you use it? Sure, but if you need any of these custom pieces you will likely find yourself frustrated and wanting a more complete solution to your email needs.
Overall, Office 365 is a great service for small businesses with simple requirements. Those of you with more complex needs should consider other Hosted Exchange options or even an in-house Microsoft Exchange server. Having some details before you start down a path can help save you a ton of headaches. In the end, the choice is always yours.