By Katherine Murray
In a hardworking, digitized world, it’s hard to imagine tools more sought after than those that show up reliably on any portable device and work well — or at least as well as advertised.
Whether Microsoft’s Cloud-based Office 365 is that tool — in fact or even in potential — is still an open question.
We look to Cloud computing to simplify our work lives — that’s what we need it to do. So when I first heard about Microsoft Office 365, I was excited by the possibility of accessing my files, getting e-mail, scheduling appointments, and having online meetings from anywhere I had Web access (including via my smartphone). As the owner of a small business, I relished the idea of using my favorite Office programs wherever an Internet connection was available. (Plus, the “greenness” of the idea attracted me.) Add in a SharePoint team site with document libraries and a free public website, and Office 365 seemed to be a pretty solid solution for a small-business owner working with folks scattered all over the globe.
Working with the Professional and Small Business version of Office 365, I was initially attracted to its Web services — glitches and bugs notwithstanding. It seemed well suited to giving users a way to easily organize and share files in one online space and allowing them to work with the Office apps they preferred. At the same time, it relieved them of the task of maintaining the system. Users could happily focus just on their work.
I also liked that Office 365 maintains user files in a secure environment (built on the concept of redundancy, so data is well protected yet easily accessed). Whatever you were working on, you could get to it from almost anywhere, using any Web-enabled device at hand.
Trying to read fine print for Cloud services
This arrangement sounds good, but I soon discovered that current reality isn’t quite in sync with the vision. Although Office 365 is continuing to evolve (as any good Cloud offering should), I find myself waiting — at the cost of U.S. $6.00 a month — for the true benefits of Office 365 to reveal themselves.