What is Office 365? The Office 365 is a subscription service designed and offered by Microsoft. This service helps immensely in your computing tasks, especially if you use your computer for business computing purposes.
However, this does not mean you cannot use it for other activities.
This cloud-based subscription model was launched on 28 June, 2011 as a popular productivity suite. It is now more commonly known as Microsoft 365 and includes some of the most useful and popular apps that includes:
- OneDrive for Business
In addition to that, depending on the type of subscription you have selected, you can also get to use other features and Microsoft apps such as advanced security measures and cloud storage.
Microsoft 365 was officially launched in 2017 and initially it was considered to be the superset of different things such as:
- Office 365
- Windows 10 Enterprise licenses
- Other cloud-based security features and
- Device management products.
Over the years, in 2020, this subscription service was rebranded as Microsoft 365. Check out Best Laptops with Microsoft Office.
Some of the core applications and services include several cloud-based productivity tools such as:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Skype and
Microsoft 365 also comes with some additional features apart from those you would get in Office 365. This includes:
- Microsoft Editor – This is a feature that will let you to correct the grammar and your style of writing. This feature is powered by Artificial Intelligence and can work efficiently in more than twenty languages. You can even use this feature in Microsoft Word and Outlook and can also install the extension of Microsoft Editor for Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.
- Transactions from banks – This is another useful feature that will allow you to connect to your bank and credit accounts directly using Excel. You will be able to download all your transaction details and import them into your budget or any other financial spreadsheets directly.
- Microsoft Teams – This is a new feature added by Microsoft that can be used for the personal life of the users. You can create a team or a group of family and friends for specific activities such as organizing a gathering, planning for a trip, or simply stay connected with each other. Sounds familiar to Slack?
- Microsoft Family Safety – Using this feature added by Microsoft you can share your location with your friends and family members. They can track your location live and you can even set notifications which will be triggered as and when you reach that predetermined location.
Microsoft 365 also offers other additional features such as parental controls to limit access to the system and a few specific apps for the kids and screen time monitoring to see how much time they are spending on the computer.
It is also very secure to use this suite as it comes with advanced security measures such as:
- Mobile Device Management which allows the IT team to control it on devices of employees
- Threat Intelligence which ensures broad visibility on the threat landscape and helps to take proactive approaches to respond quickly and
- Encrypted Email that prevents anyone else other than the person intended from reading the emails.
These are not obviously the only security features. There are also some more advanced ones such as Exchange Online Protection, Advanced Threat Analytics, and more, which you can avail based on your plan and package.
What is Office 365?
The Office 365 offered by Microsoft is a productivity suite that comes with a large number of apps, services and packages.
The beta test for it however started in October 2010. This suite is primarily targeted for the corporate users and is considered to be the successor to BPOS or Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite.
A few new plans were added to it so that it can be used by different types of businesses as well as general consumers.
It also included a few features that are especially designed for the Microsoft consumer services such as OneDrive.
Office 365 contains a number of different products and services, all of which can be configured and managed through the online portal. You can do it in three different ways such as:
- Add them manually
- Import them from a CSV file or
- Set it up for one-time sign-in via the local Active Directory using Active Directory Federation Services.
However, if you want to make a more advanced setup and add more features to it, you will need to use the PowerShell scripts.
While licensing for Office 365, the different types of packages and versions that you can apply for include:
- For personal use
- For multi-user households
- For businesses
- For students
- For nonprofits and
- For education institutions.
You can also choose to have mobile only or online versions of Office which is called Office Online. This will allow you to access some of the feature-limited varieties of this app for free.
This is much different from the previous versions of Office in many ways.
One is that it is a subscription-based service, which means you cannot buy a copy of this suite outright paying the cost upfront and one time.
Instead, you will need to pay a monthly subscription fee to get access to it and use according to the level of your subscription.
Another significant difference of the Office 365 suite is that you will always be able to use the latest version of it since the platform is updated regularly by Microsoft.
This means you will not have to buy a copy of the new edition to use the new features as you would have for those perpetual and on-premise resources.
Office 365 is a cloud-first application, though you will get desktop versions of it with a few specific plans.
This means that you can use it online by accessing the Microsoft server where all the apps, services, and data are hosted.
This also means that you will not need to install any software to access it or maintain any hardware to run it.
Therefore, you can use it wherever and whenever you want to by using any device with an internet connection using its email hosting and cloud storage space.
Some of the features that this suite includes comes with different other services in it that will help in your computing activities.
For example, the Outlook on the web brand comes with the following:
- Email service
- Task management
- Calendar application and
- Contact manager.
The services offered are named as Outlook Mail, Outlook People, Outlook Calendar, and Outlook Tasks.
Microsoft has also included a new email feature named Clutter with Office 365.
This allows using your preferences according to the importance and relevance of the emails.
It will help you to analyze them according to the pattern of behavior and the email topics as well.
This means that if you keep ignoring certain emails, Clutter will move them to a specific folder but with the same name in Outlook.
You can enable or disable this feature by logging on to the portal of Office 365.
As for the hosted services offered by Office 365 for the business-oriented plans, you will get access to cloud-based versions of server platforms as a service on a software. This includes:
- Skype for Business
- Microsoft Teams and
- Browser-based Office Web Apps suite.
As for the Home plans of Office 365, you will enjoy consumer-level online services as premium enhancements with benefits such as 1 TB of OneDrive storage as well as phone calls on the Skype VoIP service owned by Microsoft for an hour every month.
Depending on the type of plan you choose, there are a few Office 365 plans that will allow you to access a few current versions of the desktop apps as well or both Windows and Mac operating systems, within your subscription period.
If your subscription expires, you will get to see the read-only versions of these as the edit functionality will be disabled automatically.
However, access to apps like Publisher, Access and InfoPath are only available on Windows and not on Mac operating systems.
You need not worry about the updates because this suite follows a rolling release model. This means that the updates are available automatically, once per quarter, using a streaming system.
Office 365 Education is another free suite that is intended for educational use by the institutions mainly.
This comes with a host of collaboration services and communication tools along with several web-based apps and data storage abilities. This suite includes apps such as:
- Office Live Workspace
- Microsoft Shared View Beta
- Microsoft Outlook Live
- Windows Live SkyDrive
- Windows Live Spaces
- Windows Live Messenger and
- Windows Live Alerts.
To use this suite, you will need to sign in with the Microsoft Live ID and institutions can enroll in a program with free registration.
The Office 365 suite is very secure to use. Microsoft has emphasized on its security aspects since it is targeted for both large corporates and small businesses. It is compliant with different security standards such as:
- The ISO/IEC 27001
- The European Union’s Data Protection Directive and
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for health care milieus.
Apart from that you can also access different information on the new Trust Center portal of Microsoft to know about the security practices and privacy policies for the service.
That was in 2011. Further in May 2012, Microsoft announced that the Office 365 suite is compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act.
This compliance makes it a secure suite to be used by different US government agencies.
However, it is good to know a few facts concerned with the security aspect of Office 365.
- In spite of European data protection standards and Safe Harbor agreements, the data stored on the European servers can be handed over to the US authorities as per the Patriot Act.
- In Finland, FICORA created a guideline to use and protect this suite from phishing attempts after getting reports of break-ins and data breaches and loss of millions of Euros.
- The German state of Hesse banned the use of this suite in educational institutions in July 2019 citing security reasons and privacy risks.
Even the US Department of Commerce experienced breaches via Office 365 this year in which hackers accessed staff emails.
There are different plans that you can opt for Office 365, now Microsoft 365. Each plan however comes with a specific set of features based on the varied price points. These include:
- Microsoft 365 Personal – This allows access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access for home and non-commercial use on only one computer, tablet or phone along with 60 minutes of international calls per month on Skype and 1 TB of extra OneDrive storage.
- Microsoft 365 Family – This plan is for use by families and mainstream consumers. It is much similar to the Personal plan but it can be used by up to six users on six different devices.
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic – This plan allows access to hosted email, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams along with mobile app and other Office Online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.
- Microsoft 365 Apps for business – This will allow using apps for all Windows, Mac, and mobile platforms. It can be used by a single user but on up to five computers, tablets, and smartphones.
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard – This plan has similar features as the Apps for business allowing access on any platform and on any computer and smartphone but you can also enjoy other services such as hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Microsoft Bookings, MileIQ, and Teams services.
- Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise – This offers access to the apps like Office Professional Plus and can be used by a single user but on up to five devices.
- Office 365 Enterprise – This is intended for the enterprise environments and allows access to all Office apps and hosted services. In addition to that it comes with enterprise-specific features, legal compliance and support.
- Office 365 operated by 21Vianet – This is designed and is offered to the customers in China since Microsoft does not operate this suite in China but 21Vianet does. Microsoft licensed it to provide the services but it differs in features that are offered elsewhere.
With all these features and plans on offer, Office 365 is a great deal, and so is Microsoft 365, which is largely the same.
However, it seems that Microsoft is focusing more on Microsoft 365 to make it a bigger subscription service by offering not only the office apps to get the job done but also by providing several tools for consumers to use in their personal lives.
However, you should not consider Office 365 to be just the same as Microsoft 365, which was introduced in mid-2017.
Though it has similar branding, Microsoft 365 is much different from Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Microsoft Office 365.
- Office 365 consists of productivity apps and is essentially a cloud-based suite but Microsoft 365 comes in a package of services that includes Office 365 as well as other business tools.
- You can subscribe to Office 365 with or without Microsoft 365 along with it but to access Microsoft 365 you will essentially need to have access to Office 365 as well.
- Microsoft 365 is designed for businesses specially to allow them use different baseline tools that are necessary to run basic IT infrastructure and to get their job done along with securing their business.
Apart from Office 365, Microsoft 365 also includes several other apps such as Windows 10 Enterprise and EMS or Enterprise Mobility and Security that allows easy access to service including but not limited to:
- Data protection controls
- File storage
- Cyber threat protection
- Deployment and administration controls and
- Uptime guarantees.
All these services are available separately. However, the Microsoft 365 bundle seems to be more cost effective and convenient to opt for, especially for those who are not the existing Microsoft business customers.
What is Microsoft 365 Used for?
Microsoft 365 will provide you with a lot of productivity tools that you can use. With these tools, you can increase your productivity as well as keep your business and system safe.
It is extensively used by the businesses, both large and small, simply because it helps them in a lot of activities apart from spreadsheet editing or Word processing. The use of Microsoft 365 and its productivity tools helps the businesses to:
- Manage data
- Create documents
- Communicate information and more.
It enhances their efficacy in business administration and operation using different tailored plan options that are available according to their size, circumstances, and needs.
Outlook service, for that matter, will provide the business platforms with a more powerful and professional look.
It will be much easier for them to build their brand appreciation so that they can market their products and services much more efficiently and quickly.
The calendaring feature of Outlook will help them to manage their time most strategically as well as collaborate in a much better way.
It can be used more effectively to facilitate teamwork because with Office 365 all the apps and services are connected both to the wider web and to each other as well.
This will save a lot of time for the employees thereby enabling them to work more and better together by using different tools that include:
- Team chat
- Group emails
- Online meetings
- Sharing files and
Since Office 365 includes mobile apps and cloud storage, they can work wherever and whenever to access content, tasks, conversations, and schedules with a secure connection from any device.
It can also be used to ensure a layered security measure for:
- Data protection
- Privacy protection
- Proactive data monitoring and
- Service level agreement.
There are also a few important apps added recently to Microsoft 365 that makes it all the more useful. These are:
- Microsoft Connections – This is a basic email marketing tool that can be used as a more effective customer engagement platform.
- Microsoft Listings – This tool will help in managing business info on different social media platforms and search engines such as Facebook, Bing, Google, and Yelp.
- Microsoft Invoicing – This app can be used to create and send professional invoices to the clients as well as accept payments on the go.
- Outlook Customer Manager – This is a very useful, intelligent, yet simple add-on that can be used for customer management by those businesses who do not require a full-fledged CRM system as of now.
- Microsoft Bookings – This app will allow managing customer schedules and appointments more efficiently.
- MileIQ – This is a mileage logging platform which will help in classifying and submitting business travel schedules automatically.
- Business Center – This is a centralized access point for all the apps which will help in tracking vital metrics such as outstanding invoices, booking, email subscriptions, and more.
Therefore, using this cloud-hosted productivity suite you can create a positive effect on the bottom line of the company.
1. Cost effective
It is cost effective as it does not require any hardware investments and is more flexible to circumstantial changes.
Most importantly, you will not need any in-house IT expertise to manage the suite as everything is handled by Microsoft, which will therefore reduce your expense on an internal IT management team.
2. Collaboration and communication
It will facilitate communication and collaboration with the Teams which will in turn increase your productivity.
It will also save a lot of time due to this collaborative effort which will increase your return on investment and chances of success.
It will allow you to explore and integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Office and all other programs and apps of Microsoft.
It will once again increase your productivity. You can even create a trial account in just a couple of minutes easily to see how well it integrates with the cloud.
3. Easy all-time accessibility
Once again, due to the cloud-based operation, you can access, use, and collaborate from anywhere and anytime using any device that has an internet connection.
This web-enabled access will allow you to check emails, documents, calendars, contacts, and more and stay connected with your employees always, even in case of fire or flood!
Since Office 365 suite comes with multiple options you can buy only those solutions that you need.
This will offer you more flexibility when you need to convert CAPEX into OPEX.
With the Single Sign On feature, you do not have to sign in repeatedly to your machine as you can store the password in the machine.
6. Support and updates
You will have adequate phone support from the IT admin along with a 99.9% uptime guarantee and regular updates with financial backing.
Therefore, you will always have a robust security, disaster recovery assurance, proper privacy controls, and higher standards.
Office 365 comes with strong built-in security as well as continuous compliance of different safety standards.
These security features will protect your data from any losses or attacks. You will be able to know where exactly your data is and who are the ones who have access to it.
In case of need, loss or theft, you will also be able to wipe all data remotely using your mobile device.
There are no licensing issues involved with Office 365. It includes everything that is necessary to deploy it across the entire organization.
This means that everyone in the company will access the same version of it as well as continue to receive updates regularly at the same time.
You will get to be more organized when you use Office 365 because contacts, emails, and calendar are all synchronized.
If you need to update a contact on your mobile phone it will simultaneously be updated across all the devices automatically.
Alternately, you can save a file on your computer and also access the same from any device such as your smartphone or tablet to continue working on it.
10. Familiar software and programs
The productivity will hamper if there is a sudden change in programs. It will also consume much time in training and involve additional cost.
With familiar programs like Word and Excel, Office 365 will never let your productivity down because these are not confusing or need an overwhelming and in-depth knowledge to operate.
As your business grows, Office 365 will also scale up to meet with your computing needs and never disappoint you.
The tools will ensure that your business continuity is never hampered as it is built on a reliable and secure infrastructure of Microsoft Azure platform.
12. Internet connection required
Without an internet connection you will not be able to access data files and work from anywhere on this cloud-based system which will increase your downtime.
13. Compatibility issues
This suite is not compatible with older systems and therefore to use it you will need to invest on new computers which may add to your cost significantly.
It will also be very time consuming. Moreover, if you have clients and third-party companies who do not have the same software or use cloud systems, you will face a lot of issues.
14. Data storage issues
All your data will be stored in the cloud which is secure no doubt. However, there are a few industries, such as banking and finance, that may not find it to be a secure alternative.
Moreover, there may also be a few regulatory issues and constraints, such as in the healthcare industries, that need to store data on-prem.
Though Microsoft offers options for them, but then these are more expensive and may not even satisfy the requirements and compliance standards.
When it comes to eDiscovery and email archiving tools, there are some notable limitations in Office 365.
It may not be easy to administer as well and need a third-party email archiving service provider.
16. Email quotas
There are also limitations placed on the number of emails that you can send or receive in one day.
This number may vary according to the subscription level. This is much unlike the on-prem exchange servers.
17. Limited features of online apps
You may encounter some setbacks when you use online apps because Office 365 has some limits on the features of these apps and their usage.
It may not allow access to password-protected documents, not run macros, or set data validation in browser apps.
Even cloud storage is not safe in spite of the advanced techniques such as Data Loss Prevention and Advanced Threat Protection being deployed.
Existence of bugs in the products of this suite is still a high possibility which results in flaws and vulnerability to your stored files in the cloud.
19. Issues with renewals
This can be a real headache because the auto-renew is turned on by default. It may be good in one way that you do not have to remember the date of renewal every month but the problem is when you do not want to renew the Office 365 suite.
When you want to cancel, the renewal date may be long past and you may realize that you have already started to pay for the new period.
You will therefore need to check the Office 365 admin center before time and check that the renewal setting is just as you want it to be.
30. Data privacy and control
This is not in your hands. Instead, you are actually trusting Microsoft with all your sensitive data and information by using Office 365.
Microsoft uses a lot of safety and management regulation in their data center which may interfere with the daily activities of your company and your control.
Office 365 will help a business operate smoothly and securely to grow over time with more productivity and better communication.
It will help in making better plans, find more relevant information, and share knowledge in a more innovative way to move the business ahead.