Office 365 will help SMBs compete with larger rivals, says Microsoft
Microsoft unveiled Office 365 today, targeting it at SMBs that are "burdened" by technology.
The cloud-based system brings together Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync, offering online collaboration tools and offline capabilities on a per user subscription basis.
Enterprises were hardly mentioned at the launch event in London, however, with Microsoft focusing on the benefits to SMBs.
Microsoft brought out Doug Richards, an investor from TV show Dragon's Den, who suggested technology didn't benefit many small businesses. “If you run a large business, technology is a potential competitive advantage,” he said.
“If you’re a small business, technology is a burden,” he added, suggesting tech was something SMBs had to do just to keep up, rather than create real business advantages.
The managing director for Microsoft UK, Gordon Frazer, agreed, saying “the advent of cloud computing, in practical ways, establishes ways for small businesses to compete with big businesses”.
In fact, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for Lync, suggested Office 365 could even give SMBs an edge over larger competitors, as they won't need to worry about upgrades and will always have the latest features.
Of course, there are other products on the market that allow SMBs to work via the cloud - notably Google Apps.
Microsoft repeatedly said businesses needed to work when an internet connection wasn't available - not least thanks to the UK's faltering broadband network - and claimed Office 365 worked better offline than competitors.
Data security and reliability
Microsoft revealed a few other details about how the system works. All data from European companies will be held in the EU, at Microsoft's Amsterdam or Dublin datacentres, but the company confirmed that it would still be subject to US laws, so would have to hand over data if requested by authorities.
Frazer said Microsoft couldn't guarantee that it would never have to hand over data to the US - and "neither can anyone else" registered in the US.
Office 365 product manager Gill Le Fevre said reliability was key to the service's success. "The best technology in the world isn't anything if our customers can't access it or don't have faith in it," she told PC Pro.
"We put our money where our mouth is. Our approach is that if we fail in our delivery, we give you money back," she said. "I see in my revenue results every month... the money we've physically handed back, and I'm happy to say we haven't seen it that often."