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I was recently interviewed for an online summit. It was a great Q & A session about Office 365. Here are some of the questions I was asked along with my answers.

What is Office 365 ?

Simply put, Office 365 is a way of getting access to Microsoft Office software via a subscription model. The old way of buying Office was to buy what is known as a perpetual license which would allow you to install Office on one Desktop and one Laptop. When new features appeared, a whole new version was released and had to be purchased. This would happen roughly every two years which meant that organisations were looking to upgrade versions very frequently and not necessarily budgeting for this.

By moving to a subscription model, you get access to the latest updates to Office as they are released along with a set of valuable online working and collaboration features. Updates to the Office applications are released on a monthly basis and depending on the way that your organisation has decided to update everyone, you will see new features in your applications.

This also helps with budgeting as you always know what your monthly outlay is (or annual if you choose an annual subscription) which means, no nasty surprises every couple of years.

Why should entrepreneurs be concerned with using or having Office 365?

Personally, I think that using Office 365 in a business is a smart move. Everyone has the same options and access to the same software and software version. You no longer have the issue of some team members being on an older version as they have not upgraded yet. Historically, when a new version was released not everyone would upgrade at the same time. This could lead to compatibly issues, as new features that are introduced are not present in older versions.

More reasons for using Office 365 – collaboration. Collaboration is built in. With our always on always connected way of life, our working software needs to keep up. Now that people and teams are not necessarily based in the same office, we need to be able to collaborate in new and different ways.
With the cloud and cloud storage collaboration is so much easier. Office 365 has this at its core. Store your documents in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint and share them with others. Work together in real time or separately.

Plus Office 365 comes with the familiar desktop applications and web based versions of them as well as a slew of extra web based applications.

How much does Office 365 cost?

Well, like anything that depends. Office 365 is a subscription and is licensed per user. So if you are a VA with just you, it will cost you for one license, if you work with a team then you may well need more licenses. However, there are different licenses to be had and you can mix and match.

  • Office 365 Business

This license is for you if you get your email via your website or a hosting service. It comes with desktop and web versions of the regular Office Apps, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. It also comes with OneDrive for Business so that you can store documents online and share and collaborate with others.

  • Office 365 Business Premium

This license is for you if you need the Office applications and you would like to have Microsoft host your email. With this version you get all the apps that are in the Business version as well as OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Exchange and Teams – plus all the other web based applications that come with Office 365.

  • Office 365 Business Essentials

This license is Hosted Exchange along with OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Teams. If you already have your own copy of Microsoft Office – and you need an email address at the client’s organisation then this is for you.

With this version, you get to be a member of the organisation without having to pay for the apps you already have. It means that you can collaborate on documents, access SharePoint sites and function as a member of a team.

Does everyone in the team need their own license?

Yes they do. However, not everyone needs to have the same licence as mentioned above. Imagine that you are a VA working with several clients. Each client will have their own domain and email and you already have a copy of Microsoft Office. The client need only subscribe you to the Business Essentials version. This will give you an email address at their organisation and access to the online collaboration features of OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Teams.

So what is this collaboration you talk about?

With cloud storage in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint it is easier then ever to collaborate. With documents, spreadsheets and presentations stored in the cloud, links can be sent instead of attachments cutting down on email traffic and storage and back up costs.
Several people can work on the same document at the same time both online and offline – it’s like magic.

Are there certain tools inside Office 365 that are best for most businesses looking for collaboration options?

The regular Microsoft Office desktop apps all come with a cloud-based version allowing you to work online or offline. Files created in any of the apps can be shared for collaboration purposes. For example, if you have a dispersed team all working on a report, each can work on the same copy of the report without affecting access for others and the report can be built up collaboratively.

Similarly, PowerPoint presentations can be collaborated on in the browser or on the desktop and can even be presented from the browser.

Office 365 works on both Windows and Mac platforms and whilst there are a few differences in the desktop versions, the web apps are identical.
What are some of the key advantages Office 365 has over some of the cloud based platforms in our world today?

Firstly familiarity, most people in an office have been using Microsoft Office and Office 365 is Microsoft Office with extra bells and whistles, not as much of a learning curve when moving to a cloud system as if you were to choose one of the other options.

Microsoft is heavily invested in security and protection and is fully GDPR compliant – you can even choose which country hosts your data

Office 365 comes with 1TB of cloud storage per user license

Zoho Workplace has either 30 GB or 100GB depending on the plan

GSuite has 30 Gb on its basic and up to 1TB per user if less than 5 users

When you synchronise your OneDrive folder with your local machine, you always have your work to hand even when you don’t have an internet connection and you can choose what to synchronise. Once you do synchronise, you will find that you can work with the file explorer on your computer and the OneDrive folder just like any other folder on your machine.

What about other apps

Office 365 comes with several other applications not mentioned so far.

Sway – an online presentation software which can be used for delivering an online newsletter, a how to tutorial or a presentation.

Forms – create online forms for many purposes or quizzes which can be shared in many ways.

Bookings – Connect Bookings up with your calendar and allow people to book time with you.

Invoicing – Create pretty invoices

Stream – online storage for companywide videos

And a whole host more.

Running your VA Business with Office 365

To understand how Office 365 can help you in your business take my course – Running Your VA Business with Office 365. The course includes things you need to think about such as where you will work, what kind of tech you need and then takes you through from deciding which version or Office 365 to purchase, to buying installing and setting it up. Setting up Outlook for first use on both Windows or Mac and an introduction to saving documents to OneDrive for Business. Running Your VA Business with Office 365

Until next time