The Month in Technology September 2015 - Office 365 and Cloud

("The Month In Technology", Jersey Evening Post, September 15)

In the first article I suggested that as the World shrinks local suppliers need to “pick our fights and deliver a better service” to compete with typically cheaper global providers.

I start with IT providers, starting with desktop and system hosting.

Cloud and hosted desktops allow you to use Office and other systems in a private area in external data centres, reducing costs and IT support.

Local offerings keep data on island, but the cost of these services is being challenged by Microsoft, Amazon and Google who are engaged in an ongoing price war.

Space precludes in depth discussion of Google or Open Source offerings, but I assume that businesses need to use Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel etc (ie “Office”) ready to go.

Microsoft “Office 365” provides updated Office tools with data stored on Microsoft servers in either Amsterdam or Dublin at typically £3 per user per month for online only, or £7 to have Office also installed on up to 5 devices per user (your mileage may vary). Premium features such as CRM and Dashboards can be added per user.

Microsoft also recognise Jersey in their Charity programme giving even cheaper rates, already used by a number of local charities.

For smaller organisations comfortable with their data being hosted off island Office 365 immediately solves several problems, keeping familiar software up to date and data in a single secure location.

Larger organisations typically have more obstacles to overcome such as complicated internal systems, jurisdictional data issues and the effort and skills required.  The expectation is however that in the next few years these will be overcome.

What does this mean for local IT service providers ?

Revenues will eventually reduce since there is much less margin involved in implementing Office 365 for businesses than either hosting the desktop for a business, or maintaining and supporting on site systems.

However, moving to Office 365 can still involve significant work for a client moving other systems to a hosted model and integrating with their other systems, potentially with interim “hybrid” installations.

Suppliers need to be helping their clients to make an informed decision on if or when to move to the Cloud with their in depth knowledge of their clients’ business and demonstrate value with planned migrations, tailored advice, change projects and support.

Businesses no longer accept having inferior systems at work than those they have at home.