If you have already switched your telephone system to a cloud hosted PBX system, you have begun to see the benefits of keeping data on a cloud server rather than on individual devices or a tethered private server. Employees no longer need to be at work to answer their business phone calls, because their desk phone is linked to their Softphone, and they are connected to the office telephone system whenever their cell phone is on them. Hosted PBX acts to move telephone communications to the cloud, but there are many other options to gain the same cloud functionality with other media.
Office 365 is a new cloud based office application for consumers and every size of business. At its heart is the standard Microsoft Office we are all familiar with, which hasn't changed drastically software-wise since the 2010 release; Microsoft has tidied up the interface to fit into Windows 8's aesthetic. But when you buy the new '365' version of Windows, you also gain access to Microsoft's document, email and calendar cloud service. Multiple employees can edit Word, Powerpoint or Excel documents simultaneously and in real time; these documents can then be saved to a hard drive location or to the cloud server to be accessible to everyone.
Office 365 allows for multiple cloud based calendars that can be synced to multiple remote employees, as well as email accounts, which are accessed by Outlook. Microsoft has also added Office Web apps so documents can be edited even on computers without Office installed, all you need is an Internet connection. Office 365 comes with a website creator and free hosting when you buy a business license, which may be useful for some businesses.
Microsoft recently bought Skype, the popular online video chatting service, and they have integrated this into Office 365 as well. The consumer version of Office 365 includes Skype minutes for international phone calls. The business version of Skype included in Office 365 is a powerful HD video conferencing tool, with multi-feed video, real time note taking tools, and even remote screen sharing.
Office 365 will work on PC's and Macs, but it will also run on Windows 8 tablets, including Microsoft's own Surface tablet, which is a full-featured Windows PC in an extremely mobile package. These tablets or similar Ultrabooks are great investments for remote workers or home based employees.
The Web portion of Microsoft's productivity suite is very similar to Google's 'Google Docs' offering, but there is one important difference between these two companies in reference to business security. Microsoft is primarily a software vendor, but Google makes its money from advertisements. It doesn't cost anything to perform a Google search, but the yellow results at the top are how Google makes the majority of its money. Google improves its advertising efficiency by scanning any data you you have with them, primarily searches, and taking your preferences into account when serving advertisements. With Microsoft's service, your data is not scanned for advertising purposes.