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By 1 March 2013 | Categories: news

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Microsoft has launched a major update to its Office 365 services for business, adding new collaboration features and offerings that are aimed at small, medium and large organisations.

In addition to updated email, video-conferencing, instant messaging (IM) and calendaring services, business users can now get the Office applications which they are familiar with on up to five devices, delivered as an always up-to-date cloud service. Major new features in Office 365 include enhanced enterprise social capabilities with SharePoint and Yammer, and by June, it will include Lync-Skype connectivity, IM, as well as voice.

“With Office 365, everyone from large enterprises to small businesses to individual consumers can now benefit from the power of Office and the connectivity of the cloud,” said Uriel Rootshtain, Office lead at Microsoft South Africa. “This release unlocks new scenarios and delivers capabilities that far surpass anything available in browser-only solutions.”

Office 365 Small Business Premium offering

Rootshtain is particularly excited about the local potential of the Office 365 Small Business Premium offering, which is designed for businesses with one to ten employees.

In addition to the complete set of Office applications, this service includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD video conferencing in an easy-to-manage service that doesn’t require IT expertise. The estimated retail price is R1 600 per user for an annual subscription, the equivalent of R133.33 per user per month.

The National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) has been one of the first organisations in South Africa to adopt Office 365. NSBC founder Mike Anderson said that the organisation is already seeing benefits around greater mobility, cost-effectiveness and time-saving.

“Small businesses have to do more with less. It’s about staying close to your customers, focusing on your business differentiators, and being more agile than competitors. For us, Office 365 allows us to work from virtually anywhere, be productive on the go, collaborate better, and work together and smarter,” Anderson stated.

Office 365 Midsize Business

Another new Office 365 offering being released is Office 365 Midsize Business, which will provide midsize businesses with enterprise-quality communication and collaboration tools according to Microsoft.

Active Directory integration, a web-based administration console and business hours phone support are also included with this package. Pricing is R1 750 per user for an annual subscription, which is the equivalent of R145.83 per user per month.  

The new Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business will be available alongside the already available Office 365 Enterprise and Office 365 for Education offerings, with the new functionality added in this service update.

Customers can purchase Office directly from Microsoft or through an authorised retail outlet or partner. For more information on Office, visit Microsoft’s website to sign up for a free trial.

In related news, Microsoft also recently made a strong play for the corporate smartphone market with its Windows Phone 8 smartphone operating system. The company trumpeted the enterprise-level features that it says will slot the platform in seamlessly with most business IT infrastructures.

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