Nature & Découvertes unifies communications with switch to Office 365

Efficient messaging. Enhanced security. Reduced costs. Those are among the benefits that French retailer Nature & Découvertes has obtained by switching to Microsoft Office 365.

Founded in 1990, Nature & Découvertes provides sustainable products and a program of nature activities for families, with the goal of helping urbanites connect to nature. The company had been using Microsoft Exchange Server with the Microsoft Outlook messaging client at its headquarters in Toussus-le-Noble, France, and a leading cloud-based email solution in its 85 retail stores throughout France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. However, the mix of technologies was inefficient, both technically and economically.

Frustrated by its experience working in a disparate email environment, Nature & Découvertes decided to deploy a unified messaging solution throughout its headquarters, stores, and warehouses. It eliminated its previous cloud-based email solution, and instead chose Office 365. Working with Microsoft Network Partner vNext, the company deployed the Office 365 kiosk plan at its retail stores and the full Office 365 business productivity suite for everyday users at its headquarters.

“Switching from our previous cloud-based email solution and providing Office 365 for all our coworkers was the first step in moving toward a completely collaborative workplace,” says Josselin Ollier, CIO at Nature & Découvertes.

So far, the benefits have been impressive:

  • Efficient messaging: Employees are reporting very high email satisfaction levels, both at headquarters and in the retail stores. After four months, “our service quality has improved and user feedback on the shared messaging platform is extremely positive,” says Ollier.
  • Enhanced security: Nature & Découvertes has also benefited from strengthened security and confidentiality for messages and documents. “Correspondence at Nature & Découvertes includes strategic conversations with attachments, which is why it’s important to have secure local message storage,” says Ollier.
  • Reduced costs. The company is also seeing clear financial benefits by switching to Office 365. In fact, officials say they expect to save a whopping  50 percent on messaging costs. Wow!

Efficient messaging. Enhanced security. Reduced costs. Three great reasons not to compromise when it comes to business productivity.

To learn more, please read the Nature & Découvertes case study.

12 reasons why users prefer Outlook over Gmail at work

The best thing about my job is that it gives me the opportunity to talk to customers. It’s an honor and pleasure to hear them speak about our products and services. At times it’s humbling and at other times it leaves me with a sense of pride. I could talk to customers all day long and not be tired!

The conversation gets doubly exciting when the customer has switched from Google Apps for Business to Office 365. We see more and more customers and partners recognizing their love for Outlook. These organizations listened to their employees and decided that Office 365 was the right choice to keep their organization productive and satisfied. As I talk to these customers, there are a number of capabilities that they callout as missing in Gmail. Here are a few reasons that come up consistently with users who prefer using Outlook over Gmail.

1. Integration across email, calendar and contacts — Email is the primary mode of communication at work today. Customers tell us they look at Outlook as one place to effectively communicate at work to get things done. Whether it is to setup meetings, find more information about a contact, dial into conference calls or jump onto online meetings, Outlook is their hub. They tell us how they love the consistent experience of the inbox since it gets them going on their task without much thinking. As they start Outlook each morning, this consistent look gets them going every day with minimal to no training. Gmail on the other hand frequently tries a new experience e.g. new compose or new inbox.

2. Offline access to email —  A big topic in all our discussions is being able to work on email without worrying whether they are connected to Internet. Customers tell us when traveling on an airplane, their favorite work-related activity is to clear up their email backlog. Most of them work in Outlook during their journey. They can read and respond to email just like they would when they are at their desk connected to the Internet. As the Internet connection is re-established, the email is automatically sent. With Gmail offline, users have access to only past month’s email when there’s no Internet connection. Also, users can access their email offline on Chrome and Safari browsers only. By contrast, Outlook does not have these restrictions.

3. Organize email your way — Not all users work the same way. Some sort their folders alphabetically; others don’t. Some like to simply search for their email while others need the ability to look for their email in specific “bins”. As a result, they relate to folders in Outlook better. Users have limited ways to organize their email in Gmail. They are limited to only use labels to organize their email. Asking users to relearn their way of organizing email is simply unacceptable to them. As one user said, “it felt like trying to get work done with workarounds.”

 4. Categorize email items to stay organized — With Outlook, users have the ability to assign categories to various items (e.g. message, calendar appointment, task etc.) An item can be assigned multiple categories to classify it in more than one way. And those who need visual cues have the ability to color-code the categories. At a glance, users can see how they spend their time across different areas by looking at the color coding of the events on the calendar. Those who use categories and color coding to keep their work organized cannot imagine doing without it. These customers had to restrict themselves as they tried to use the colors to differentiate items in their inbox, tasks etc. in Google. The inability to associate colors with different items in email rendered color coding meaningless for these customers.

 5. Multiple ways to find email — Users need multiple ways to find their email. Using search to find email works mostly when users know what they’re looking for. But users insist “sometimes you just don’t know what to look for” and they have to rely on where they filed an email to go find it. The ability to sort email by date and size, to specify the timeframe, and to scope the places to look are all various ways to find the email when you don’t know how to describe your search. Outlook provides multiple ways to track down what users are looking for, whether its search, folders, categories, sort emails in inbox, search folders, etc. With Gmail, users do not have a way to sort email by size, date or sender and are stuck with just one thing – search!

 6. Flags, changing importance of email — Outlook makes it easy to flag email to grab quick attention. One customer described it as, “when I see a red exclamation marked email in my inbox, I know I have to get to it quickly.” The lack of the “red exclamation mark” in Gmail leaves users confused as to what email is more important than others. Because they cannot set the “red exclamation mark” while composing email, they are unable to get the right priority of attention to their email from their recipients. By contrast, Outlook makes it easy to not only include a “red exclamation mark” but also flag email for rapid follow-up or change the importance of an email to “low” to indicate lack of urgency. Customers tell us these seemingly little capabilities make users far more productive on daily basis than using Gmail without these.

 7. Rules to minimize email clutter – Customers tell us how much they love Outlook, and yet they continue to push us to help them better manage the clutter in their inbox. We continue to make progress on that front every day. Some users use rules to move items to various folders and assign categories to stay organized. This helps them remove unwanted email and minimize the clutter in their inboxes. Gmail has filter capability, but the actions you can take after you filter these emails is limited in nature. Customers tell us it is easier to setup rules in Outlook to flag important email based on the sender.

 8. Rich contact information — It’s great to hear users describe how they’re able to find someone’s office by looking at their contact card. Contact card in Outlook provides rich information about the user. The photo in the contact card enables users to associate faces with names. “Presence” information shows the status of the user, for example, whether they’re busy, offline, etc. Users can quickly and easily start a chat conversation with the contact, schedule an appointment, make a quick phone call, or start an online conference. And unlike Gmail, the contact card in Outlook also includes each person’s job title, department and location information.

 9. Scheduling meeting rooms – Outlook lets users schedule resources like meeting rooms, projectors, etc simply by adding them as a resource to your meeting. The resource then functions just like any attendee, including the ability to auto-respond to the meeting invite as well as the ability to see the free/busy schedule. Users who want to do this easily with Gmail end up frustrated as the experience of scheduling meeting resources with Gmail is a cumbersome, multiple-step process involving primary and secondary calendars.

 10. Mail tips — How many of you have inadvertently sent an email to a long distribution list instead of the one person that you intended to? I am sure many of you can relate to this scenario, just like I have embarrassed myself! For users like me, mail tips in Outlook is a savior. As you begin composing email, a message pops up to indicate that you might be sending mail to a large distribution list. It’s a good warning sign if it wasn’t the intention of your email. This is a great example of enabling you to make the right decisions, while continuing to help you be productive.This capability pops even more when the recipient of your email is on vacation or has their automatic responses turned on. As you begin composing the email, the automatic response message for the recipient shows up within the message, thus saving you the headache of waiting for the vacation response to plan the appropriate next follow-up action. Customers who have switched from Gmail love it when the mail tip pops up in Outlook telling them the urgent message might be headed for someone who is unavailable for a few days.

 11. Ignore conversations — Some conversations are worth ignoring. Often such conversations are an outcome of someone’s oversight or “who has the last say” attitude. Outlook has a very simple way to ignore such conversations. With a simple click, all existing and new emails in this conversation are moved to deleted Items folder, thus removing clutter from your inbox to help you focus on more important tasks at hand. Users also like the clean up option, where only the latest email thread with all comments is kept intact, while the rest of the emails are moved to the deleted items folder. All unique forked conversations are also kept intact to ensure all comments are still available in one place. With Gmail, users have a way to mute the conversation, but this capability is not easily discoverable and it does not work if the recipient gets added back on the To line of the email.

 12. Sharing and delegating calendars — Administrative assistants who are responsible for managing multiple calendars tell us that working with Google Calendar was one of the most painful experiences for them. With Google, they claim that they had a “calendar mess” to deal with, leading some to use paper-based calendars to keep things in check! With Google Calendar, you get the option to either share all details on the calendar or just the free/busy schedule. It does not have the ability to share the free/busy with just the subject of the events. It lacks the level of control as to what details to share. After switching back from Gmail to Outlook, customers have much better control over managing calendars. For example, users can decide whether to share each person’s “free/busy” status along with the subject for the meeting. They can also choose to share full details about each meeting including the subject, attendees, the location, etc. Once the calendar is delegated, administrative assistants can easily manage the delegated calendar alongside their own calendar in a simple side-by-side view and minimize the confusion of making changes to the wrong calendar!

Having spoken to so many customers who have switched from Google Apps during the past year, I can safely conclude that not everyone used Outlook the same way. Based on their role and organization, they missed Outlook for a variety of reasons. The core of what Outlook gives them is the ability to use it in a way that makes them more productive in their job, whether it is an administrative assistant helping the leader to be more successful or an executive sending a high importance email to the team. The choice and flexibility is what they missed the most about Outlook.

Please click through this slideshow to see some of the differences for yourself:

 –Sanjeevini Mittal

 

 

Microsoft has the broadest set of tools for real-time communications

Here at Microsoft, we pride ourselves on having the broadest definition of productivity, with no compromises. That is why our vision for real-time communications and collaboration is to connect people from the living room to the boardroom, with Lync and Skype offering the most robust set of communications options that businesses need and consumers love. Google Hangouts was launched to improve “Google’s real-time communication services.” However, after looking at Hangouts more closely, here are five reasons in particular why Microsoft has the broadest set of tools for real-time communication.

1. Microsoft offers both a consumer and an enterprise-grade service.

Microsoft offers both consumer-grade and enterprise-class services to our customers. With over 300 million connected users, Skype has one of the largest communities on the planet. Microsoft also offers Lync Online as part of Office 365, and it is a communication service that responds to the security, compliance, and communication needs of large organizations. Skype and Lync connect to each other – so users on Skype can call users on Lync and vice-versa.   

Google offers a single consumer-grade communication service that lacks enterprise features that many businesses require. From its marketing to its feature set, Hangouts was designed with consumers in mind, not businesses. When the new Hangouts service was announced at Google I/O in May, Google Apps for Businesses wasn’t even mentioned. The focus was on how Hangouts connects you “with the people you love” — not the people with whom you do business. The scenario that exemplifies the value of Hangouts is a wedding engagement announcement, not team collaboration or better business meetings. The most discussed features in Hangouts are easy photo sharing and emoticons (“emoji”) that “make conversations more fun.” Paired with features like Google Effects, which lets you add animated pirate hats and snorkeling masks to your face during video conferences, Google’s focus is clearly not the business experience with Google Apps.

By contrast, Office 365 and Lync Online were designed from the ground up with a focus on what enterprises expect from their unified communications platform. Employees get a rich set of business-appropriate features, such as presenting directly from PowerPoint into a Lync meeting, sharing robust meeting notes in OneNote with meeting details automatically populated by Lync, sharing specific applications, whiteboarding, and choosing an optimal arrangement of meeting participants and content. Organizations benefit from the robustness of capabilities such as administration with Active Directory, archiving and compliance tools, integration with Microsoft Office, extensibility from public APIs based on industry-standard technology, and interoperability with other systems and devices (from headsets to Lync Room Systems).

2. Microsoft provides the best support and security options.

Office 365 provides 24/7 technical support and the added benefits of a 99.9% financially backed uptime guarantee for all of its services, including Lync. A customer using Lync Online and Office 365 can take advantage of a broad range of support options, starting from the basic one-by-one incident support, to comprehensive and ongoing support through Microsoft Premier Support programs. This enables customers to trust Microsoft to be there and help when something needs troubleshooting or fixing.

On the other hand, Hangouts is a feature in Google+, and Google+ is not a core service of Google Apps – it is considered an additional service. That means Hangouts is not supported under Google’s Technical Support Services Guidelines, and it is not covered by any support or service level agreement. What if you have a problem with Hangouts? You only get to check Google’s web help center or help forums. What if you have a favorite communications feature you like to use in a certain way? Google might change your experience without warning and force you to use it differently.

Beyond just Google’s planned changes, what if Hangouts has an outage? Hangouts is not on the Google Apps Status Dashboard so your organization doesn’t have visibility into the issue. And since Hangouts is not protected as part of the SLA, Google doesn’t have a financial responsibility to get you back online quickly, nor an obligation to compensate you for downtime with service credits. You just don’t know what will happen, whether on purpose or unintentional, with the Hangouts service.

3. Microsoft lets you talk to the broadest set of users on the planet.

Sometimes in the course of doing business, your enterprise’s partners, vendors, and customers don’t have the same infrastructure as you do. Office 365 and Lync allow you to connect with Lync users inside and outside of your company whether they have Lync installed or not. You can also include anybody with an HTML5 browser in the rich Lync meeting experience (including group video and content sharing). And as mentioned earlier, any Lync user can connect with the over 300 million connected Skype users as well. Imagine the possibilities: collaborating on a joint marketing plan with a partner. Conducting status calls with a small business vendor you’re working with. Explaining your medical diagnosis to a patient and discussing their case.  Or simply getting in touch with your family while you’re on a business trip. Office 365 and Lync let you collaborate naturally, seamlessly across borders, with more options.

If you use Google Apps for Business, Hangouts only lets you collaborate with other users who also have Hangouts. And you only get the premium Hangouts web experience if you use the Chrome Browser.

4. Microsoft has a more comprehensive feature set.

While Hangouts On Air allows public audiences to watch a Hangout via YouTube, only up to 15 people can actually participate in the video chat itself and have the full Hangouts collaborative experience. Everybody else is just a viewer. But we know that in many enterprises, teams are larger than 15 people, and more than 15 people need to collaborate on content in real time with each other. That is the true power of real time communications with the cloud. Office 365 and Lync support fully participatory experiences for 250 people in virtual meetings. Everybody — not just a small handful of people — gets the full power of interactive presentations, content sharing, instant messaging, voice, and video. That means everybody can speak up in that weekly status meeting, or comment on those latest product designs, or ask questions about that graph in a business report. Office 365 and Lync don’t just make you watch a broadcast — you can be in the “studio” itself.

5. Microsoft has robust security and compliance.

Organizations often wish to enforce policies for collaborating with and sending information outside the company. That is why with Office 365 and Lync, not only can you turn off Lync-Skype connectivity if you wish, but all Lync instant message conversations can be archived to Exchange regardless of user behavior. Office 365 lets IT enforce its policies to help keep the organization safe and secure.

However, if you’re using Google Hangouts, “there is no setting that prevents Hangouts with users outside your domain [and] Hangouts does not yet support warnings informing users that they’re messaging outside of the domain.” That means with Hangouts, IT must rely upon users to check and abide by company policy for external communication. But, as we’ve seen with a similar lack of enforcement capabilities for Google+ posts, employees sometimes make mistakes with external communication. This can be risky for organizations, and that’s why IT should be able to enforce external collaboration policies. But with Hangouts, you can’t.

What if your company wants to archive all instant message conversations? Sorry, with Hangouts, users can still communicate off the record by turning off message history. So much for compliance. And speaking of compliance, the new Hangouts is not compatible with Vault. So organizations face a costly tradeoff and have to give up Vault’s email archiving and e-discovery capabilities in order to get the new Hangouts.

Microsoft’s approach — from the living room to the boardroom.

We at Microsoft offer the best of both worlds — communications products that serve consumers, small businesses of all sizes, and enterprises. We believe people are users both at home and at work, so we believe in providing solutions that scale to the needs and requirements of both the living room and the boardroom, not just building a single product for both. Our business product, Lync Online with Office 365, provides the features, seamless integration, management capabilities, and robustness that enterprises expect when it comes to business productivity. We are excited for you to give Lync a try in your enterprise so you can collaborate effectively with a product designed with your business needs in mind.

 

 – David Alexander, @MSFTDavid, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Office 365

 

 

Office 365 news roundup

The well-known management consultant Peter Drucker once said that “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” It’s advice that we take to heart. Over the past several months, we’ve been working hard to create the future by providing valuable updates that meet the needs of Office 365 customers.

On the heels of significant improvements to SkyDrive Pro  and doubling the size of Exchange Online mailboxes, we recently announced several improvements to SharePoint Online including raising the limit on SharePoint Online storage from 250 MB to 2 GB. All of these updates are an effort to improve our services as an increasing number of companies turn to cloud computing.

It’s rewarding to see the continued movement to the cloud, and to Office 365, in particular. According to a recent study by the nonprofit IT industry trade association, CompTIA, 90 percent of companies now claim some sort of cloud usage. Wow! The great news is that many of these companies are turning to Office 365. If you haven’t yet, please read why health manufacturer Physiotherm opted for Office 365 to support its rapid growth. We are honored to help Physiotherm and thousands of other companies create a highly productive future with Office 365.

Below is a round-up of key news items from the last couple weeks. Enjoy!

Microsoft Office 365 revolutionises planning consultancy. UK chartered plan consultancy firm Bell Cornwell discusses how Office 365 provides with confidence that company data is securely backed up.

Microsoft offers free versions of Office 365 to nonprofits. Earlier this week, we announced that eligible nonprofits can access a free version of Office 365.

Starting Yammer conversations from documents stored in SharePoint Online. Having two-way conversations about documents in real time, from within the documents themselves, can not only enhance communication, it can also improve employee engagement and spark innovation.

Collaborate confidently using Rights Management. Learn how to take advantage of a unique customer controls feature in Office 365: Microsoft Rights Management.

Don’t overlook the importance of effective SharePoint user training. Leanne Bateman of the Beacon Strategy Group shares best practices for an effective SharePoint training program.

Running meetings & webinars on Lync. If you missed the recent live webinar, you can now view the recording to and learn how to improve your meetings with Lync.

Transition to Office 365 Email and Calendar Continues. The University of Wisconsin-Madison will begin migrating faculty and staff to Office 365 in early 2014.

Physiotherm switches from Google Apps to Office 365 to support rapid growth

For organizations experiencing rapid growth, a top-notch productivity solution can be vital to the success of the business. A cloud-based service that’s difficult to manage can divert attention away from a company’s core mission. What organizations need is a solution that’s simple to use so they can focus on what they do best-growing the business.

That was exactly the scenario facing Physiotherm, an Austrian-based manufacturer of low-temperature infrared technology used to promote health. Over the last decade, the company has grown from 15 to 230 employees. It currently has more than 50,000 customers, and opens an average 10 new locations throughout Europe each year.

As it grew, Physiotherm needed a cloud-based productivity solution to help it manage growth across borders. The company initially tried Google Apps, but it lacked seamless integration with the Microsoft Office suite of applications. “At the beginning, Google Apps seemed simple and straightforward, but it soon became nearly unmanageable,” says Gerald Gunsch, Chief Information Officer at Physiotherm.

Last year, Physiotherm opted for Office 365. By making the switch, the company has reduced IT complexity, allowing its IT professionals to concentrate on core services and develop the next generation of business aligned IT initiatives. What’s more, employees now have improved usability in their day-to-day work, while the company as a whole is a lot more flexible during a time of rapid expansion. 

“It was only when we replaced Google Apps with Office 365 that we reached the level of standardization and integration that we need to support our dynamic growth,” says Gunsch.

To learn more, please read the Physiotherm case study.

Wellness company migrates from Google to Office 365 to achieve mobile work style

Aisle7 provides marketing services for retailers’ wellness products. Back in 2009, it replaced an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server solution with Google Apps Premier Edition, but after nine months decided to abandon Google. We recently spoke to Jake Harris, the Director of IT at Aisle7, to learn about the company’s journey to Microsoft Office 365.

Q: Please tell us about Aisle7.

Jake Harris: Aisle7 was founded on the premise that an informed consumer is a healthy consumer, so our goal is to help our retail customers engage shoppers and increase sales. Food retailers choose Aisle7 to supply reliable health and wellness content to their customers by implementing Aisle7 solutions wherever their shoppers look for information-websites, mobile phones, in-store kiosks, and social media.

Q: Why did you want to move to cloud-based services for your email solution?

Harris: Aisle 7 has always promoted a modern work style with an emphasis on mobility. Approximately one-quarter of our 28 employees work from home or outside of the office. We recognize that it’s important to balance work and family, and that commuting is not good for the environment. So, we are committed to finding tools for our workforce that help them be productive no matter where they are.

Q: What criteria did you use to select Microsoft as your vendor for cloud-based business productivity services?

Harris: We learned a few lessons with Google. While we were still committed to finding cloud-based business tools, we realized those tools had to be designed for the workplace, not for consumer use. We wanted continuously evolving products that we could grow with. We wanted a business partner interested in our long-term success.

Q: How has Office 365 changed the way people work at Aisle7?

Harris: When we migrated from Google to Microsoft Office 365, we gained access to an evolving suite of communication and collaboration products designed to match the needs of a growing business. With so many of us working outside of the office, we are looking forward to taking advantage of the enhanced web mail interface with Exchange Online. We’re going to be a lot more productive on the road. Outlook Web App automatically resizes the user interface to match screen dimensions on tablets and mobile phones so it’s easy keep up with work using any device. And with SkyDrive Pro, we can always access the latest versions of our files, which are automatically synced to SharePoint libraries, to edit and collaborate on documents on the go.

Q: What are the biggest benefits you are seeing from Office 365?

Harris: Because we all work in different places, we are really looking forward to using the social features within SharePoint Online as a social platform for the company. We can set up newsfeeds to share what people are doing, both on team sites and globally. It will create a whole new dimension for the company.

I’m already using the desktop sharing functionality in Lync Online to improve remote support. I ask people to share their screen and seconds later I’ve taken control of their computer to solve their problem. I’ve expedited issue resolution by approximately 25 percent. It’s just one more example of how Office 365 is a great tool for the workplace!

Read the full story online. For more success stories about people like Jake Harris, read other real-world testimonials on the whymicrosoft website.

Montgomery County chooses Office 365 over Google to lower costs, enhances service delivery

We spoke to Anthony Olivieri, Director of IT at Montgomery County, about why Montgomery County chose Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps to manage its messaging and collaboration environment. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Please tell us about Montgomery County.

Olivieri: Located just outside Philadelphia, Montgomery County is the third largest county in Pennsylvania, with a population of more than 800,000. The county delivers a range of citizen services, from public health, property assessment, and road maintenance to law enforcement, courts, and corrections. We have a single IT department to support more than 3,000 employees and 4,000 email accounts in 60 locations at every county agency. One-third of county employees work in the field, including health inspectors, building inspectors, road crews, and social-service caseworkers.

Q: Why did you want to manage your messaging and collaboration with cloud technology?

Olivieri: We had to manage 4,000 email accounts with an aging messaging infrastructure that did not interoperate easily with mobile applications and devices and had become prone to outages that could sometimes literally shut down some agencies. It could cost tens of thousands of dollars in just a few hours, and create up to a week of extra work for the IT team. We had to update our email environment, and based on our projected business needs, expand our messaging and collaboration capabilities. We estimated that it could cost up to [US]$1 million and take 10 months to do it on-premises. We quickly recognized that cloud technology would give us an opportunity to shrink our overall IT infrastructure, decrease costs, and reduce the maintenance and support burden on the IT team.

Q: Why did you choose Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps?

Olivieri: In 2012, we released an RFP [request for proposal] for cloud-based messaging and collaboration services. Ultimately, we put together a focus group with members from every county agency to attend full-day presentations from IT partners representing Google Apps for Government and Microsoft Office 365. The presentations focused on the day-to-day user experience, from sending email messages, attaching documents, and organizing meetings to file storage and videoconferencing. In online surveys taken at the end of the presentations, 75 percent of the group found Office 365 to be more secure, less disruptive, and a better fit for their average workday than Google Apps. We determined that Office 365-with Lync Online for instant messaging and web conferencing and the option to purchase Yammer for social networking-would provide the reliability, scalability, interoperability, uptime, and data security that we needed.

Q: What benefits are you experiencing by using Office 365? 

Olivieri: By adopting Office 365, Montgomery County streamlined service delivery, reduced costs, and got a high-performance messaging and collaboration environment. For example, we’ve enabled sheriff’s deputies to serve warrants without having to come back to the office to retrieve paperwork. County solicitors can find archived email messages in seconds and respond to public-information requests in days instead of weeks. We avoided up to $1 million in new infrastructure costs, and we’re saving at least 30 percent of IT staff time by eliminating manual backups and other maintenance. People can do their jobs without interruption and access their email and calendars from anywhere on any device. If we hadn’t chosen Office 365, we might have built a more stable messaging environment, but we wouldn’t have gotten the enhancements, scalability, and new capabilities that we did.

Read the full story online. For more success stories about people like Anthony Olivieri at Montgomery County, read other real-world testimonials on the whymicrosoft website.

Catapult Systems: Choosing Office 365 is a slam dunk!

Today’s guest bloggers are Sean McNeill, Cloud Services Specialist, and John Santiago, General Manager, at Catapult Systems, a national Microsoft-focused IT consulting company that provides application development, enterprise solutions and infrastructure services. Catapult Systems has 400 employees who work with mid-market companies and large enterprises across the U.S.

 

Cloud computing is a hot topic with our customers these days. Because of the economic benefits, we’re seeing tremendous interest in cloud services among our customers. They are looking for IT administrators to focus on more strategic projects instead of ongoing maintenance of on-premise software. And all this while not having to worry about disaster recovery and unpredictable costs.

Reasons why customers choose Office 365

The majority of our customers were using on-premise software, while one fourth switched from Google Apps or another competing cloud platform. When moving to the cloud, most customers evaluate Google Apps and other competitive offerings before making a decision. In the end, they choose Office 365 because they want to stay within the Microsoft family. We see three reasons why customers choose Office 365:

Working with existing software: Office 365 works better with their existing software. Since both IT staff and employees are already familiar with Office, it enables them to be fully productive right from the start. In fact, most employees see no difference between Office in the cloud and Office on the desktop. It just works-and that’s a very compelling offering.

Moving to the cloud at their own pace: Another reason why customers choose Office 365 is the ability to move to the cloud at their own pace. If you’re a 10,000-person organization, it defies logic to take a big bang approach and move your entire organization to the cloud without first pilot testing it. Companies don’t want to impact all of their users at the same time. What’s more, they want a safety net. They want the ability to go back to an on-premise environment if the cloud doesn’t meet their needs. 

Because Google Apps delivers its solutions online only, clients are left with no choice but to move to the cloud in one giant step. By contrast, Office 365 provides more flexibility. Users can choose whether to move to a pure cloud environment in one step or move to the cloud in smaller steps. The Office 365 hybrid environment provides customers the flexibility to integrate cloud services into an on-premises infrastructure, helping them to move to the cloud at their own pace. For example, Office 365 synchronizes with their on-premises Active Directory (AD) infrastructure, meaning that the IT department doesn’t have to create new global address lists and user identities for employees in the cloud. They can instead rely on the identities from their on-premises AD.

Enterprise credibility: Google is an advertising company. Over 95 percent of its revenue comes from advertising. On the other hand, Microsoft has a long track record of working on productivity solutions tailored for enterprises. It’s made a huge investment in security, much more than the average company can make itself. Our customers realize that, and it simplifies their decision.

Reasons why customers switch from Google Apps

Over the last couple of years, we’ve helped many customers switch from Google Apps to Office 365, including three mid-size organizations ranging from 400 to 1,200 users within the last six months. There are a number of reasons why we’re seeing customers flee Google Apps for Office 365:

Outlook email experience: A key reason why customers abandon Google Apps is that they miss Microsoft Outlook.  We recently talked to an executive assistant responsible for managing multiple calendars. Doing so with Google Apps was so cumbersome that she ultimately started using Outlook on her own. Unlike Google Calendar, which required her to put everyone’s events onto one calendar, making it difficult to see whose calendar she was updating, with Outlook, she could see multiple calendars side-by-side, making it easy to coordinate calendars and schedule meetings.

When we told her we were there to help her company move back to Office, her reaction was, “Thank God!” She wasn’t the only one. After using Google Apps for a month, employees across the organization were exerting so much pressure on the IT department that the company decided to switch to Office 365.

Fidelity of Office documents: This is a huge issue with Google Apps. Most people use Microsoft Office. So, working with customers and partners outside of the organization becomes difficult when using Google Apps. The file formatting gets lost as documents are sent back and forth between organizations.

Employees using Google Apps are often forced to convert their documents into Word or Excel in order not to lose formatting, adding a layer of complexity to their already busy workloads. Rather than taking the extra step to make documents presentable to the outside world, many companies find that it’s easier to work natively within the Office suite.

Hidden costs: Yet another disappointment for Google users is the unanticipated costs associated with Google Apps. Companies assume that the cost of Google Apps is $50 per user per year. But once they factor in the price of training and lost productivity, the costs are actually much higher. On top of that, many companies end up paying extra for third-party tools not included with Google Apps, such as the advanced ability to archive and manage data. After discovering that Google Apps doesn’t fully meet their needs, customers continue to use Microsoft Office. Thus, they end up shouldering the cost of two productivity suites-Google Apps plus the Microsoft Office licenses they’d already been paying for.  In the end, they realize that Google Apps is not cheap. Office 365 is actually a better deal!

For customers that are considering a move to the cloud, the best way to understand the benefits of Office 365 is to see them firsthand.  When we bring customers into a room and show them the amazing services included with Office 365 and how Office 365 works seamlessly with their on-premises environment, it really opens up their eyes. When we demonstrate the rich, familiar experience across multiple devices, their interest only grows. And when we tell them they can move to the cloud at their own pace, it’s a slam dunk!

Office 365 news round-up: June 17

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Microsoft with both the TechEd North America conference in New Orleans and the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles. TechEd featured key developments to Windows Azure, significant updates to servers, and new tools built for the cloud. At E3, we unveiled a lineup of blockbuster games for the Xbox One games and entertainment system, with a ton of exclusive titles.

Over the past couple of weeks, we also released a new version of Skype for the Windows desktop that makes it easier to share and add contacts. And we unveiled Windows 8.1 updates, including the addition of Outlook email to Windows 8 RT tablets.

We hope you got a chance to read about how Veyance Technologies is driving global business transformation with its move to Office 365, as well as why the strategic communications firm LEVICK chose Office 365 after considering Google. Here is a round-up of some of these and other key news items from the last couple weeks:

TechEd Crystalizes Microsoft’s BYOD Management Strategy. Microsoft discusses the company’s bring your own device (BYOD) management architecture at TechEd North America conference in New Orleans.

Office 365 Gives Aston Martin a Smoother Ride. Aston Martin gives its staff secure, reliable access to systems on a variety of devices with move to Office 365.

Microsoft Boss with a Head in the Cloud for SMEs. Thomas Hansen, Microsoft’s vice president for worldwide small and medium business, explains why cloud technology and the Office 365 suite have been such a hit with start-ups.

Microsoft to Add Outlook to Windows RT Tablets. Microsoft is bringing its popular Outlook email program to Windows 8 RT.

Windows 8.1 Revealed in New Microsoft Video. New Microsoft video shows Windows 8.1 in action including improvements to the Start screen, the search tool, and more.

Skype Updated with Improved Video Messaging, Simplified Contact Adding on Windows and Easier Calling on OS X. Microsoft releases Skype 6.5 for both Windows and OS X, featuring video messaging improvements and new features for both platforms.

Xbox One: Microsoft Unveils New Games. Microsoft announces new games coming for the Xbox One at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

 

SEPCOIII boosts employee productivity with switch from Gmail to Office 365

Energy company SEPCOIII had been using Gmail for external communication but found it unreliable and cumbersome. The company eventually switched from Gmail to Microsoft Office 365. We recently spoke to Pradeep Parmar, Director of Management Information Systems at SEPCOIII, to learn why:

Q: Please tell us about SEPCOIII.

Pradeep Parmar: SEPCOIII originally was the electric utility company for the Shandong province of China, and eventually shifted into designing and building power plants across China. In 2011, we decided to take the business global and opened up a regional office in Dubai to lead our international expansion.

Q: Why did you investigate a cloud services solution to manage your messaging and collaboration?

Parmar: We had been using a combination of IBM Lotus Notes for internal communication and individual Gmail accounts for external communication, but it wasn’t meeting our needs. We started investigating cloud-based solutions because we were growing quickly and IT is not our core business. We needed a single solution that required minimal capital investment, could be deployed very fast, and would offer world-class capability, reliability, and availability. We also wanted a solution that easily scaled up as we grew internationally.

Q: Why did you choose Office 365 over Google Apps?

Parmar: Gmail was very unreliable, and employees were losing email. Most found the calendar feature cumbersome and weren’t even using it. Employees were frustrated that the company didn’t have a stable, reliable email solution. The fact that Gmail provided limited offline functionality was also a problem. At project sites, where there was often no Internet connection, employees weren’t able to transfer files by email. This meant tasks that should have taken a few hours to complete were taking days and even weeks.

Given employees’ negative experiences with Gmail, we immediately ruled out Google Apps as we explored a new solution. Instead, we compared an on-premises Office solution with Office 365 in the cloud. We chose Office 365 after our analysis showed we could save an estimated 80 percent in IT hardware and administrative costs over a six-year period. In June 2012, we hired LiveRoute to deploy Office 365 in our Dubai office. Our goal is to move all 5,800 employees to Office 365 by the end of 2013.

Q: What benefits are you experiencing by using Office 365?

Parmar: By moving to Office 365, we now have a robust and reliable email and collaboration solution that’s improving our productivity. Employees are no longer worried about losing email and have begun using shared calendars to quickly schedule meetings. They’re also using the offline capabilities of Office 365 to stay productive when there’s no Internet connection. In addition, we now use SharePoint Online as a central portal to store company documents, which means employees can access company information wherever they are, from nearly any device. If an employee leaves the company or loses his or her laptop, no problem; the information stays with the company. We’ve also replaced the majority of in-person meetings with Lync Online videoconferences, reducing our travel requirements. We are so relieved to be using Office 365. It’s a great platform that we can rely on.

Read the full story online. For more success stories about people like Pradeep, read other real-world testimonials on the WhyMicrosoft website.