Software giant Microsoft has launched its Office 365 product, claiming the new cloud-based office suite will help small firms compete with larger companies.
Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based productivity and collaboration service designed specifically with SMEs in mind.
Office 365 brings together Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online.
Office 365 allows users to stay on the same “page” using instant messaging and virtual meetings, and enabling them to work on files and documents at the same time, regardless of users’ physical distance from each other.
Oscar Trimboli, of Microsoft Australia, says enabling business productivity sits at the “very core of Microsoft’s DNA”.
“Through Office 365, the very smallest organisations can now access the most sophisticated, enterprise-class collaboration tools for a price per user, per month that is roughly the cost of a sandwich,” he says.
According to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, Office 365 will enable SMEs to compete with their larger counterparts.
“To compete, small and medium-sized businesses need an edge; an edge that doesn’t require huge upfront capital investment or complex IT systems to manage and maintain… Office 365 will deliver on those promises,” Ballmer said.
The company believes Office 365 will appeal in particular to companies with little in-house IT expertise or resources.
While Microsoft will continue to sell Office 365 directly to its Enterprise Agreement customer base, Telstra will be the exclusive reseller to all other Australian customers.
Andy Springer, co-founder of Sydney-based recruitment company Rookie Recruits, says the rise of cloud computing presents major growth opportunities for Australian SMEs.
“Our recruitment company has uniquely tapped into the stay-at-home-mum workforce, which wouldn’t have been possible without cloud technology,” Springer says.
A recent report by Frost & Sullivan reveals 43% of Australian companies now use cloud computing in some form, while 41% of IT decision-makers say cloud computing will be a top priority in the current fiscal year.
Frost & Sullivan says companies value cloud computing due to the reductions to capital and operational expenditure, increased business agility, and the ability to deliver IT on demand.
The survey reveals hybrid cloud deployments are the most popular model in Australia, adopted by 22% of companies, compared to 18% of companies using public clouds.
Hybrid clouds involve a combination of public and private cloud services, while public clouds are typically offered via a web application or as web services over the internet.
Public clouds involve applications such as customer relationship management, messaging, conferencing, payroll and office productivity.
Frost & Sullivan expects hybrid clouds to remain the dominant deployment model in the near term due to the flexibility offered to choose the right cloud environment based on cost, security, reliability and service level agreements.
When it comes to the delivery of cloud services, the software-as-a-service model continues to lead the way, with 72% of cloud users opting for this delivery model.
However, infrastructure-as-a-service, which delivers computer infrastructure, has seen a rapid take-up in the past 12 months, with almost half of cloud users adopting this model.
Meanwhile, platform-as-a-service, which delivers a computing platform and solution stack, remains in the early stages of adoption.