For a long time Microsoft Hotmail has had access to a raft of potentially useful services for business. These have in the main gone unnoticed. This is not too big a surprise – mostly these have felt more like a random connection of tools that didn’t quite work rather than a solid system that could be good for business.
That is now changing. The imminent launch of Windows 8 and the following launch of Office 2013 will put Microsoft’s online services centre stage and under greater use and scrutiny than ever before. Fortunately Microsoft is setting up to the mark and part of this is Outlook.com
Outlook.com is the re-imagining of Microsoft Live and Hotmail into a single strong system that could be used for business.
Here are some they key items you might want to consider
Outlook.com looks simpler, runs quickly and is certainly neater and easier to use than it’s predecessor. Sure this is mostly cosmetic, but if cosmetic makes it easier to work then is that so bad? Also the design is centred along making access to the rest of the system easier to access and use.
If you use the services at https://domains.live.com/ you can create an email, data sharing and calendar system that works under your domain name and can support up to 500 users. The service can be branded to match your company. You can build an information management system for your company that works effectively. The cost of this is free. This now makes it an incredibly cost efficient solution for building a cloud based management system on.
Skydrive now gives each user 7GB of storage. This can used to synchronise data off to and from every PC using the Skydrive App. Access your work from more than computer becomes easy and flexible.
The new generation of Office Web Apps give you first class office applications via a browser. These are enough for all basic office tasks. Using these in a situation that does not depend on the full MS Office functionality can be a huge cost saving. If you do use MS Office heavily – well these integrate to the full versions of MS Office – allowing you to choose your preferred tool. Being able to freely choose what suits you and your business is incredibly powerful.
These are 4 good reasons to consider Outlook.com.
Due to all the changes that Microsoft is making over the next few months there are bound to some changes.
Outlook.com could be perfect for you, but you should also look at the revised Office 365. You’ll need to decide which in the long run is better for you.
What I will do is illustrate these changes and services as they come in – enabling you to make a good decision, but for now I must say that Outlook.com looks compelling.
This blog is mostly good news. Announcements of work done for clients or updates regarding new or improved cloud and web services.
However something less than pleasant has come to my attention that I ned to share with you.
It concerns Dropbox, the darling file sharing service of the tech community.
On July 2nd an update to its terms was released, and there is probable cause for concern.
Here’s the offending quote from the ‘Your Stuff & Your Privacy’ section -
By using our Services you may give us access to your information, files, and folders (together, “your stuff”). You retain ownership to your stuff. You are also solely responsible for your conduct, the content of your files and folders, and your communications with others while using the Services.
We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.
Although this clearly states that your stuff belongs to you, it also grants a licence for Dropbox or unspecified people that dropbox works with to pretty much do as they need with your stuff.
I don’t believe that this going be appropriate for all users of Dropbox.
My advice is this – take a look at the terms and think about the possible ramifications of the licence stated being applied to your data. If you don’t feel comfortable with that licence then Dropbox you may not be the service for you.
I think this takes me to another point. Although not pleasent it is always important to read and consider the terms of service and privacy statements of all cloud services. The service becomes part of your business and you must make sure it is going to be beneficial to your business
It’s been in beta for a while but Office 365 has now launched and is fully operational. It comes at a low price point and offers a number of advantages to small businesses.
However before we start looking at features please remember one thing – if you choose the cloud only version of Office 365 then you can only work when connected to the Internet. It’s a vital point to remember and one that is at the root of everything to do with the cloud. If your staff work mostly on the road they will need to find a decent Internet connection to really get the most out of this.
So what can it do?
- Every person you put on Office 365 gets Exchange Email with all the advantages that brings. Including – robust and world class email features, calendar sharing, contact sharing and scheduling. At the price of Office 365 just using the email facility on its own is something of a bargain
- Online versions of Office applications. This is smart – you just log on and get familiar office applications. If you pay a little more you can also get the desktop based ones at a very reasonable price.
- Sharing! Office 365 allows for Sharepoint which makes for very easy sharing and managing of team and group documents.
- Create a website – its easy to create a public facing website using office 365 – so as well as a good cloud solution you also get cheap web site hosting.
- Run company databases. Access Services in Office 365 mean that you can create share data the way you need to in web based databases.
- Run online meetings and share desktops. This is something that is underused in business – but only at the moment. Once everyone in your organisation can easily meet online and look at what you are doing you will find that online meetings can be incredibly productive. I have a feeling that this will online meetings out of geek hands and involve a lot more people. It is far superior to having a conference call.
- Smartphone integration. Although this all works best via Windows Phone, you can share email, contacts and calendar to most smartphones. Most notably iPhone and Android
I don’t mean to make this piece sound like an advert and there are alternatives to Office 365. However nothing else I have seen brings so many Enterprise class features to the small business at such an affordable price point. My feeling is that this will be a service that become very important – as if used well and under the right conditions really bring down the costs of business computing for a lot companies. That is something that a lot of people have been looking for – for a long time.