Why Office 365 over Google Apps?

Competitive companies have CIOs who are interested in solving business problems – not focused on day-to-day IT tasks. Technology is business and if you don’t master it, your competition will. In order to focus on the business as a CIO, you need to rely on products that will essentially take care of themselves. This is, I believe, the critical benefit of  Microsoft Office 365, and what is really clearly explained in Microsoft’s new white paper, Top 10 Reasons for Choosing Office 365 over Google Apps.

There are dozens of product comparisons out there, but the decision points in this white paper can really be boiled down to 3 reasons:

1Privacy Matters

Microsoft hits this concern first. Why should we believe our information will be safe? Well, Microsoft touts its $9 billion network of data centers, which may or may not be impressive to you.

Google is an advertising company. Why would I trust a company whose business model relies on ad revenue? It creates a motive for selling personal information. While Microsoft’s Bing does sell ads, it is an ancillary rather than primary revenue generator for the Microsoft Corporation, representing less than 8% of Q4 FY2014 total revenue. Google on the other hand generated 91% of their revenue from advertising in 2013 according to their 10k. For more information on Google’s latest run-in with personal information privacy issues, here is a recent Reuters article.

2Allow Users Access to their Content Anytime, Anywhere

Duh. This one is a no brainer. Employees have an increased desire to work from home, have flexible hours, work seamlessly while traveling, and be connected to everything they need 24/7. Because of this growing demand, mobile functionality is becoming more and more critical to today’s workforce.  Office 365 works well online and offline (even email), which is certainly important for business users who travel.

Google apps offer limited offline functionality for email. Google is “committed” to mobility, but what about when you don’t have internet? I find it useful to have access to my information whether I am connected to internet or not.

3Less Training Required

Find me someone who has been in the workforce and hasn’t used the Microsoft Office applications. This means that training is minimal and your employees will likely feel relatively comfortable with the change. Microsoft worked hard to create an online platform that mirrors what employees are already doing with their on-premise versions. It could be a costly nightmare to switch to Google Apps and train employees on an enterprise level because the interface is completely different than Office. And, conversion of desktop versions of documents to Google Apps isn’t always accurate.

These are, as an end-user and mobile employee, the most important reasons that Microsoft cites in their recent white paper. Honestly though, I would pick Office 365 on the first point alone.

Have you had to make this choice? What was the tipping point for you?

Why Cloud?

Why CloudIT leaders:

It’s time to take an honest look at the business and business goals of your organization. How does IT drive BUSINESS objectives? Can you honestly say that your IT infrastructure contributes to your company’s bottom line? Or are you still a “cost center?” What you will find is that there are big areas of opportunities to enhance business strategy, free up real dollars in hard savings, and free up soft costs. Although out-of-pocket savings is the current focus of the benefits of the Cloud, it’s the soft costs that may provide the biggest business impact.

Freeing up “facilities”

Moving systems to the Cloud will allow key essential resources to focus on those projects that directly impact the business. Your IT group will better serve the organization as a whole by providing the foundation to grow and expand. So what do I mean by facilities? Think on a broader scale. I am not talking about a couple of racks, I’m talking ALL of your physical facilities. Just think of the benefits of not being tied to a physical space:

  • Production and/or Disaster Recovery: you don’t have to house the majority of your hardware onsite. The Cloud can potentially house both primary production AND disaster recovery. Two different locations in the Cloud, nothing in your building.
  • Utilities: Electricity, phone, wireless connectivity, every square foot has associated costs, and much of it can be Cloud based. No more need for the long term contracts and responsibilities a company’s physical space carries. Your utilities don’t have to change when your address does.

The goal of the Cloud is to provide efficiencies to the businesses, both from a cost and support prospective. So why wouldn’t you want:

  • Quicker turns on IT projects
  • Stability across the application base
  • More efficient use of skilled resources
  • Mobility

Shifting applications and functions only makes sense. Consider Microsoft Office 365 as a starting point. Even if you only use Outlook and not the other applications included – SharePoint, CRM, SkyDrive — consider what you WON’T have to worry about:

  • Licensing
  • Version control
  • Hardware life cycles
  • Facility space and costs

And look at the benefits:

  • Ease of access regardless of location
  • Plays right into  Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans
  • Latest and greatest versioning / functionality

The bottom line is that the Cloud does provide significant benefits to any business.  It’s time to take a hard look at how your IT footprint can contribute to your company’s success.

Cloud 101: Understand the Plan

cloud plan

Cloud questions

Moving to the Cloud is a good move in most cases HOWEVER – It’s not as easy as most service providers want you to believe. If the analysis isn’t done properly up front it can lead to poor performance, interruptions in business, and, what I am currently seeing, costs getting out of control quickly.

CIO’s and CFO’s are rightly asking:

Why are our IT Budgets significantly higher?

Wasn’t the Cloud supposed to save us money?

The Reality – The Cloud is not for everything and everybody!

You need 2 things from your service provider:

  1. First and most important – Due diligence
    Your service provider should understand your business and make that the priority 1. For example: Recently I have seen two companies, one an engineering firm and the other in the Insurance industry, that have very dynamic IT needs. These needs were clearly not understood and documented in the detail that was needed to ensure a successful cloud endeavor. Both company’s need to spin up and down environments for pre-determined times. So who’s managing this?
  2. Which leads to my second point – Education
    During the discovery phase, service providers need to make sure that whoever manages the cloud provider/vendor is made aware of the pricing model and supported content to manage the environment properly, what to expect and what controls need to be implemented to ensure environments are managed correctly.

The bottom line is: Many providers are on the bandwagon to sell Cloud. A lot of them don’t have preferred hosting partners and focus only on the transitional services. So clients must understand:

  • whether discovery or due diligence services are provided
  • whether that report includes recommendations regarding which applications should move to the Cloud and which should stay on premise
  • what hosting partner or Cloud service is recommended
  • estimated ROI

Cloud strategy is critical to Cloud success, even if clients have to enter these unchartered waters on their own.