Office 365 is the catch-all term for the Microsoft subscription plans that offer users a bundle of productivity software and services. In exchange for a monthly fee, subscribers gain access to all of the standard Microsoft applications — including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and Outlook — as well as cloud storage and other services intended to improve workplace productivity.
There are many useful and powerful tools in the Office 365 suite that can help small to mid-sized companies be more productive and collaborative. However, it’s often hard for small businesses to make sense of all the offerings available under Office 365. Here’s a quick guide to the Office 365 productivity tools that you have at your disposal.
The Benefits of Office 365 for SMBs
One of the greatest advantages of Office 365, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses, is its cloud-based nature. This means that the applications and storage that you use are hosted and run on Microsoft servers and made available to you via the internet.
The cloud-based nature of Office 365 has a number of beneficial implications for your small business. For one, you no longer have to worry about crashes or disasters, as you would if you ran an in-house solution. Because all of your data is within the cloud, Microsoft takes total responsibility for support, maintenance and backups. In addition, your data remains safe and secure under Microsoft lock and key, yet you can still access it from anywhere at any time using only an internet connection.
Office 365 is especially helpful for SMBs because it offers a predictable monthly cost that can be canceled at any time, rather than requiring you to make a risky investment in a solution up front. What’s more, your subscription plan can scale alongside you as your business grows and you need more user licenses and storage.
Office 365 Productivity Tools
Once you subscribe to Office 365, your business gains access to a number of helpful productivity tools, from familiar software like Word and Excel to more advanced applications. Here’s a summary of some of the tools you may not be familiar with.
What it is: Microsoft’s solution for secure file hosting in the cloud.
What it’s used for: synchronizing files across all of your devices and sharing them with colleagues, such as your latest presentation.
What it is: a platform for document management, storage and collaboration.
What it’s used for: building intranet portals in order to manage and search through your internal communication and data.
What it is: a smart tool that displays recent and relevant content, documents, people, etc. to you in a personalized dashboard view.
What it’s used for: quickly accessing new and relevant information and people based on the intelligence of who you work with and the content you work on.
What it is: an enterprise social networking tool, like “Facebook for your business.”
What it’s used for: sending ideas and communications that don’t necessarily require an instant response, like brainstorming or sharing news.
What it is: a suite of Microsoft business intelligence and analytics tools.
What it’s used for: analyzing and visualizing business data sourced from Excel files, databases and third-party sources such as Salesforce, QuickBooks Online, and Marketo.
Skype for Business
What it is: a solution for video and audio calling and instant messaging.
What it’s used for: communicating with colleagues and business partners via calls, meetings, and screen sharing.
What it is: an application for creating, assigning, and completing tasks.
What it’s used for: collaborating among small groups of coworkers in order to break down a larger project into discrete tasks.
What it is: a solution to easily create business applications and share them with team members.
What it’s used for: letting users at any technical level build and publish mobile apps to assist with business processes.
What it is: a chat-based workspace to support team collaboration via voice and video calls and integration with other Office 365 services.
What it’s used for: communicating in real time with colleagues for messages that require an instant response.
The Importance of SharePoint for SMBs
SharePoint is a key tool for small businesses because its all-in-one capabilities help companies become organized by getting a better handle on their documents, data and projects. By basing your intranet on SharePoint, you can improve usability, take advantage of powerful pre-built modules and enjoy an easy-to-use interface.
SharePoint-based intranets are able to integrate and unify SharePoint and other Office 365 tools, as well as other business applications. This means that SharePoint enables you to bring your business together in all aspects in a single place.