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By 29 June 2012 | Categories: news

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After first being available in South Africa on a cloud trial basis, Microsoft has announced the local commercial launch of Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 is the Redmond-based software giant’s cloud productivity service for businesses, ranging from SMEs through to big corporates.

The company asserted that this launch can make a “significant impact” on the local SME market, by making it easier for local companies to obtain and use the same business productivity solutions employed by major enterprises.

Depending on user options, Office 365 will cost firms from as little as R46.50 per user per month.

Return on investment - lowering of expenditure

Microsoft South Africa’s marketing and operations director Melanie Botha stated that cloud-based solutions, the likes of Office 365, are able to assist businesses lower capital expenditure costs and deliver productivity tools to its users, with appropriate layers of security and compliance.

“Peace of mind is the biggest benefit for SMEs. Knowing that someone else is taking care of everything is great. Knowledge workers enjoy new software features and upgrades as soon as they are available. Costs for the move to Office 365 are predictable and spread over time as operating expenses (opex) instead of capital expenditures (capex), putting a smile on the face of the finance guy,” said Botha.

The subscription to Office 365 includes online versions of Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint as well as Lync to deliver e-mail, document management and unified communication services to business of all sizes. Certain subscription plans also add Office Pro Plus to deliver offline capability in Word, Excel, Outlook and other Office desktop products.

SMEs and startup firms to benefit most

Technology industry analyst Arthur Goldstuck explained that SMEs and startup companies have the most to gain from cloud solutions such as Office 365, as they do not need to invest heavily in infrastructure. According to Goldstuck, only 9% of South African SMEs are currently using cloud computing solutions within their businesses, but those that do are more profitable than their less tech-savvy counterparts.

“Cloud computing offers more benefits than drawbacks to SMEs, yet a lack of understanding of these benefits means uptake continues to be slow. Despite this, there is a clear edge for those who do make use of it; after all, cloud computing is an enormous cost saver to any business, and cutting costs is a key element of profitability,” said Goldstuck.

Convenient move to the cloud

Botha stated that the move to the cloud via Office 365 doesn’t require a firm to alter the way it operates, due to the fact that the service is based on familiar productivity tools people already know, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Employees are able to collaborate on documents from virtually any type of device or smartphone, all whilst businesses get the reliability, security and IT controls they require within the cloud.

She concluded by saying that the current healthy state of South African bandwidth means the timing of Office 365 is also ideal. “South Africa’s broadband provision has improved dramatically in recent years. Office 365 also enables economical use of bandwidth resources, leveraging innovation in the latest version of Office platform.”

In related news, Microsoft and Yammer have entered into a definitive agreement, under which the software giant will acquire the enterprise social network provider for a cool $1.2 billion in cash. The Yammer team is to becomes part of Microsoft’s Office division, and will continue to develop its standalone service.

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