Moving to the Office 365 cloud comes with some key features and benefits. Namely, your organization gets to continue to use the software you have been using for years, but you now get to shift the burden onto Microsoft. In addition to shifting the burden to Microsoft, there are some other key benefits.

Security

Starting with one of the most important factors in choosing a cloud service, security has been the big stumbling block for many companies considering moving to the cloud. Microsoft’s online services have been designed with security in mind. Office 365 applications are accessed through 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption so that if a transmission is intercepted by someone without authorization, they won’t be able to read it. Antivirus signatures are kept up to date, and security measures are applied in accordance with the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing initiative. Exchange Online uses Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) to protect mail messages from malware, and it uses anti-spam filtering and antivirus with multiple virus engines.

Reliability

After security, the most commonly mentioned area of concern regarding cloud services is reliability. Downtime means lost worker productivity and ultimately costs companies money. Microsoft Online Services provides a service level agreement (SLA) and has a 99.9 percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft has multiple datacenters, located all over the world, hosting redundant network architecture. If there is an outage at one datacenter, another can act as a backup. Customers hosted by the first datacenter are transferred to another, with as little service interruption as possible.

Compliance

Compliance with government and industry regulations is a big deal in today’s business world. Microsoft Office 365 services have been certified as compliant with ISO 27001 standards, completed SAS70 Type I and II audits, and achieved the EU Safe Harbor seal. Microsoft has also added controls for helping customers comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

Compatibility

In today’s economy, many companies can’t upgrade all of their desktop systems to the latest operating system. That’s not necessary to use Office 365. Microsoft Online Services supports not only Windows 7 and Vista (SP2), but also Windows XP SP3. Even XP Home edition or Media Center edition can be used, although it doesn’t support federated identity. Mac users can also access the Office 365 applications, using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard). The online Web portal for administration works with Internet Explorer 7 or later, Mozilla Firefox 3.x, or Apple Safari 3.x. The Outlook Web App can also be accessed with any of those browsers or with Google Chrome 3 and later versions.

Up-to-date versions

With Office 365, companies and their users get all the features and functionality of the very latest versions of Microsoft’s server products. The services run on Exchange 2010 SP1, SharePoint 2010, and Lync. Client software is Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows (Communicator for Mac), and the enterprise edition includes the licensing for Office 2010
Professional Plus.

Single sign-on

Assuming your network is running Server 2008 Active Directory on-premises, you can configure Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to achieve single sign-on, so that
users can log on to the domain and be automatically authenticated to Office 365.

Exchange Online

Exchange Online gives you the benefits of Exchange Server 2010 without the cost and overhead of deploying it in-house. User mailboxes up to 25 GB are supported (administrators can reduce the capacity on a per-user basis), and personal archives provide more storage space. Attachments up to 25 MB are allowed. Users can restore deleted items, including items deleted from the Deleted Items folder. Even if an item has been permanently deleted or manually purged, it can be recovered if you enable Single Item Recovery (disabled by default). And if you, as administrator, delete a user, you can request that the mailbox be recovered for 30 days after the deletion.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online makes collaboration easy. You get 500 MB of storage per user account with a storage quota of up to 100 GB per site collection. Your company can have up to 1 TB total storage. Your SharePoint sites work with all Microsoft Office 2010 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, InfoPath, SharePoint Designer, and SharePoint Workspace. Sites can be accessed via IE 7/8, Firefox 3, or Safari 3.1.2 and through mobile devices including Windows Mobile 6.5.x, Windows Phone 7, Apple iPhone 2.0 and above, and Nokia E and N series.

Lync Online

Lync Online is the communications service component of Office 365. You can also purchase it as a standalone service, for providing users with instant messaging, audio and video calling between PCs (PC to PSTN calling is in the works but won’t be available at release), Web conferencing, and presence. With the Lync 2010 client software (available at no extra charge), users can send IMs (the text of which is encrypted) and display presence status and monitor presence status of others. Lync integrates with Outlook so users can find and communicate with others from within Outlook (“click to communicate”). Presence information can also be updated based on Exchange calendar information, and it integrates with SharePoint Online. Users can also transfer files during IM conversations.

Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps is part of Office 365, but it doesn’t take the place of the fullfeatured Office applications; it supplements them. For sophisticated document creation and manipulation, you need a rich local application. But there are times when you’re away from your Office-equipped computer and need to do a quick edit. That’s where Web Apps come in. No matter where you are or what computer you’re using, you have access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and you can create or edit content and post it to your SharePoint site or save it in your SkyDrive folder. You get the same familiar interface you’re used to with traditional Office applications, and documents display the same way they do in the desktop apps. You can even view files on many popular mobile devices, including Windows phones, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, and devices with Opera Mobile 8.65 or Openwave 6.2 and later.

Generate greater productivity with Office 365

Productivity is a great word that management-consultant types love to use. In the real world though, productivity can be summed up in a simple question: Can you do my job easier or not? Microsoft has invested heavily and spent a tremendous amount of time trying to make the user and administrator experiences of Office 365 as easy and simple as possible. The idea is that increasing simplicity yields greater productivity. Whether it is an administrator setting up a new employee or a business analyst writing policy and procedure documents in Word. When the technology gets out of the way and you can focus on your job, you become more productive. Try using a typewriter instead of a Word processor. Whoever thought copy and paste would be such a game changer?

Access from anywhere with Office 365

Accessing your enterprise software over the Internet has some big advantages. For one, all you need is your computer — desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone — and an Internet connection or phone coverage. Because the software is running in a Microsoft data center, you simply connect to the Internet to access the software.

Work with what you know with Office 365
Microsoft does not always come out with the best software. Remember Windows Vista? Shiver! Instead of running far away and never looking back at Windows again, users simply held their collective breath until Windows 7. And thank you for hurrying Microsoft! One thing Microsoft did incredibly right is recognize that users don’t want to give up the things that make them comfortable. Office 365 hasn’t changed your favorites one bit. The only difference is that now they are seamlessly connected to the enterprise software living out in the cloud. In other words, your favorite applications are cloudified.

Robust security and reliability comes with Office 365

With Microsoft taking on all the responsibility for security and reliability, your IT team can rest on their laurels. Letting Microsoft do the heavy lifting frees up the IT team to do more important things such as helping users get the most out of enterprise software. Microsoft understands if you aren’t fully comfortable about letting them do the heavy lifting. To address some of the questions, however, Microsoft has extensive service level agreements to help put your mind at ease.

Office 365 provides IT control and efficiency

IT personnel like to know exactly what everyone is doing with their systems at all times. If something goes wrong, then it is probably due to user error. Your systems do what they are supposed to do. Microsoft has gone out of its way to create an unprecedented level of control for administrators. But that is not all. Not only do administrators have control over the environment, but it is also actually designed to be simple in nature and intuitive.