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By 30 November 2011 | Categories: news

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Every day the move towards cloud computing is taking another step forward, but locally a giant leap has been made with the announcement that Microsoft’s Office 365 public trial is going live. The trial will allow South African businesses and users to try Office 365 for free for up to six months, until the service is officially launched here in the first half of 2012.

Office 365 (video posted below) is the company’s next-generation cloud productivity service for businesses of all sizes. Hosted in the company’s data centres, Microsoft Office applications are at the heart of Office 365. It allows users access to cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook and other Office applications. Users are also privy to Microsoft Exchange Online (email, calendar and contacts), SharePoint Online (service for creating sites to connect colleagues, partners and customers) and Lync Online (IM, presence and online meeting experiences).
 
No current Microsoft infrastructure is needed to make use of Office 365, since the service is browser-based, and can be run from internet connected PCs, notebooks, tablets (iOS, Android, Windows 7) or smartphones. There is also no Windows Live ID needed.

SME sector the early target

Microsoft South Africa’s marketing and operations director Melanie Botha expects the early adopters of the service in South Africa to be the SME sector, which will benefit from access to the same business productivity solutions used by major enterprises.

“Small companies can now take advantage of the best technologies the largest companies use, but on a scalable pay-as-you-go basis, with solutions that are easy to get and use. Now small companies can cater to their technology needs without big infrastructure investments, and get access to several technology tools they didn’t have before,” said Botha.

According to Microsoft, smaller companies can create and maintain a custom website, manage data and stay in control of sensitive information — even with no IT expertise.

Different Office 365 Plans

There will be a number of subscription plans available, ranging from those for single-users to multi-user licenses for large corporate companies.  

Office 365 for Professionals and Small Businesses

This is a set of web-enabled tools for small businesses, independent consultants and professionals. Benefits include the following:
·         Access to email, important documents, contacts and calendar on nearly any device including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian phones
·         Office Web Apps for viewing, editing and sharing documents
·         25 GB mailboxes for each user and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
·         Easy-to-use website design tools
·         Password-protected team sites for collaborating on documents and information
·         Powerful, up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
·         Integrated IM, presence and online meetings with audioconferencing, videoconferencing and multiparty data sharing
·         Financially backed, guaranteed 99.9%
·         24/7 moderated community-based support

Office 365 for Midsize Businesses and Enterprises

For larger sized businesses, Microsoft is offering Office 365 for Midsized Businesses and Enterprises with the following benefits.
·         25 GB mailboxes and the ability to send attachments up to 25MB
·         Financially backed, guaranteed 99.9% uptime service level agreement
·         24/7, IT-level support over the phone, Web or email
·         Single sign-on capabilities with local Active Directory
·         Latest version of Office Professional Plus, connecting users to communication and collaboration services
·         Office Web Apps for viewing, sharing and minor editing of documents directly from a browser
·         Powerful, up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
·         Integrated IM and presence, online meetings with audioconferencing and videoconferencing, and multiparty data sharing
·         Team sites to share, manage and search for information and resources

Office 365 for enterprises starts from approximately R20 per user, per month for basic email, while it also includes the option to purchase Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software on a pay-as-you-go basis for approximately R200 per user, per month.

Availability

The Office 365 trial version is available from today, and once it becomes commercially available next year in South Africa, customers who used the trial can subscribe and continue using the accounts they’ve set up during the trial period.

No official pricing for the post-trial period have been revealed yet, but if the United States pricing is anything to go buy, individual and small business owners can look at $6 per user per month (about R50), while midsized business and enterprises can expect to pay anything from $10 - $27 (±R80 – R216) per user per month.

For more info or to sign up for the Office 365 public trial, head over to www.office365.co.za for more info.

  

 

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