Office 365 is getting a lot of attention within enterprises and Microsoft is really pushing to make it a success. In this article we focus on what Office 365 is all about and answer the questions you might be too afraid to ask at work, lest you out yourself as a Luddite.

But what is Office 365 and what are all the great news? Office 365 has been around since 2011 and has silently rolled out updated versions ever since. The major change was releasing a brand new cloud-based Office package. So why talk about Office 365 again?

In my role as Templafy’s CTO, I’m asked a lot of questions about Office 365. Surprisingly, many of them are pretty basic ones. Perhaps it’s because Office 365 has been out for so long that people feel uncomfortable asking those questions in public? Still, there is confusion as to what Office 365 actually is thanks to a couple of reasons:

The Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook applications, that for decades have been referred to as ‘Microsoft Office’, are now just a part of Office 365 (named Office 365 ProPlus). Office 365 also includes all the backend technologies like Exchange mail server, SharePoint document management server, OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business as well.

Office 365 is actually both in the cloud AND on-premise because the Office Suite applications can be installed locally.

Why Microsoft is putting so many eggs in the Office 365 basket

Back in 2011, Microsoft made a huge jump into cloud-based office applications. This brought an end to countless updates on their numerous desktop versions of the Office package and gave Microsoft a product that competed with Google Apps, which had been getting great traction. Office 365 was launched as a direct competitor to Google.

Today, Microsoft is pushing hard to make Office 365 a worldwide success. The trend is clearly going toward cloud-based and collaborative office tools and, with a strong market share in desktop applications, Microsoft promoted Office 365 as a natural next step for cloud-based IT. The strategy seems to have paid off: Google may have more seats in total, due to a lot of traction from personal or SMB use, but in the lucrative market of companies with 1000+ employees, Office 365 has become the defacto standard for enterprises.

So what is Office 365 - besides cloud-based Word, Excel, and PowerPoint?

On the technical side, Office 365 is more than just online versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Most Premium and Enterprise plans include features like Exchange server, mobile apps, Sharepoint, OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business. The speed at which Microsoft has integrated these features has been remarkable. They have allocated many resources to get a competitive enterprise product on the market, so Office 365 is undoubtedly Microsoft’s most important business area these days.

Here’s a quick overview of what Office 365 includes:

Office 365 in the cloud:

  • Exchange mail server
  • SharePoint server
  • OneDrive for Business
  • Skype for Business
  • Outlook web app for web mail access
  • Word, Excel and PowerPoint web apps for editing documents in your web browser

Office 365 on your local machine:

  • Office 365 Pro Plus, which consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, etc. installed as applications on your local machine, tablet or smartphone.

Why switch to Office 365?

There are several reasons why organizations move to cloud-based applications like Office 365. One of the most common ones given by Templafy customers is productivity through accessibility. When employees are given access to office applications across platforms, they become more productive. For example, representatives in field sales can use their tablet computers to adjust an offer and get it signed while visiting a client.

At the end of the day, any productivity gain is a reflection of how IT is driven within the organization. Cloud-based solutions—like Office 365—help reduce virtual plumbing and hardware maintenance. It turns the focus to the application side, the place where employees drive real business value and even small companies gain the same IT infrastructure productivity-wise, as large enterprises.

Migration to Office 365 is not without turbulence

At Templafy we are not Office 365 experts. But we monitor how Microsoft develops the Office applications closely. There’s an important reason for that.

Like any other IT project, migrating from a previous desktop version of Microsoft Office to Office 365 sometimes results in unforeseen problems. The one that we care most about is compliance with business templates.

Before the Office 365 migration project rolls out, there is an important thing you should know: your customized business templates are at risk of being non-compliant upon migration. Without a good plan for template management, your users may reuse non-compliant material, where layout and logo don’t match in the documents and presentations and, even worse, legal information and disclaimers are wrong.

The issue that concerns us the most is how Office templates look after the migration. The template will work, without a doubt, but customized templates built to match guidelines from the Legal or Brand Management departments might need a makeover after the transition to Office 365. They may no longer be compliant and making them work across all the app platforms can be a headache.

Preventing problems is much better than solving them. We’ll be posting our tips on how to prepare for a smooth migration to Office 365 soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact us or use the comments for any additional questions.