What Are the Pros and Cons of Office 365?

As some developers tell it, the cloud is the best thing since sliced bread.
Local installations are out and cloud applications are in, they say. Hosted
cloud-based apps — like Office 365 — offer convenience, easy access and mobile
compatibility. But are cloud-based solutions like these all they’re cracked up
to be? Is switching to an application suite like Office 365 the best move for
your company? Do you need to move from desktop applications to a cloud-hosted

Any change to your operations is bound to bring on this kind of pendulum
thinking. You ricochet between the pros and the cons, desperately searching for
something to steer you one way or the other. In this guide, we’ll illuminate
some of the most important differences between Office 365 and older, locally
hosted versions. We’ll highlight both the benefits and the drawbacks of
cloud-based applications, specifically those available in Office 365 — and help
position you to make the bigger plunge into cloud networking.

Pro: Office 365 Allows Workers to Access Documents and Email from

Employee brainstorm at 2:00 am? It’s hard to know when or where inspiration
will strike. With Office 365, your staff doesn’t have to wait until the morning
to piece together an idea from a bunch of scribbled notes. They can open their
laptop and start working directly on that big presentation or tricky company
email — no matter the time of day or where they happen to be. Not only that,
their coworkers can join in the conversation with collaborative features like
document sharing and editing through the cloud-hosted software SharePoint
. That’s a huge win for productivity, and it may have big implications
for how your workers manage their day. In fact, you may find yourself easing up
on restrictions on working from home, or saying yes to more conferences and
conventions. After all, if you know workers can be online from anywhere, why
not give them the power to work where they want?

Con: Online Applications May Have Limited Features

On the flip side, however, some workers may experience setbacks when they
try to work in browser applications. For instance, the browser version of
Office Word doesn’t allow users to access password-protected documents, nor can
they run macros inside a document when working online. (For a full list of
available features, see the Microsoft help article, “Differences
between using a document in the browser and in Word
.”) Excel users can’t
set up data validation in browser workbooks, and some features, such as the
TODAY function or the INFO function, behave differently online than they do
when working locally. (Check out the full list of differences in the Microsoft
help article titled “Differences
between using a workbook in the browser and in Excel
.”) In certain cases,
the loss of functionality could make online work confusing, if not impossible.

Pro: Cloud-hosted Applications Save Your IT Team Time with
Troubleshooting and Updates

Your IT team is probably busy enough as it is. Among the soft benefits
introduced by Office 365 is the ability to take application installation and
troubleshooting off those team members’ plates. That frees them up for more
valuable work and boosts productivity, to boot. Instead, this kind of IT work
gets passed to the experts: Microsoft’s admin center spells out the whole setup
process, which is a lot easier than configuring an exchange server. And new
updates occur automatically, the minute new releases are available, although
you can turn off automatic updates if you prefer.

Con: Storing Your Data on the Cloud Makes It More Vulnerable to
Security Threats

The savings in IT administration might not be worth it, however, if you have
to worry about security flaws. Microsoft
does work hard to keep your data safe
 from hacks and security threats,
and it employs techniques like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Advanced Threat
Protection (ATP) to ensure that its cloud is protected. However, that doesn’t
mean there aren’t flaws that could jeopardize your security. For example, in a
highly publicized instance earlier this year, Google’s Project Zero security
research team discovered
a high-risk security concern
 in Edge, another Microsoft product.
According to the researchers, the bug allows attackers to control information
saved in the application’s memory, which has potentially devastating
consequences for data security. Another critical bug, reported just the week
before news of the Edge security flaw, exposed potentially sensitive data
stored in Windows servers. And it
took Microsoft several months to release a patch
 for that
vulnerability. Although Edge is not included in the Microsoft Office 365 suite,
it is worth weighing these risks as you consider the switch to cloud-based

Pro: You May Save Money After Moving to a Subscription Payment Model

Money talks, and if the cost savings are right, security vulnerabilities may
not be a deal breaker. Microsoft has been in the business of providing powerful
commercial software for years — and for the most part, it is able to put its
money where its mouth is. A joint
 executed by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Microsoft
found a 154 percent return on investment for a small- to mid-sized company
switching to Office 365. On average, most businesses achieved payback in 5.1
months and were able to lower overhead by $8,100 by eliminating third-party
software and services. Typically, companies experience lower licensing costs
when they purchase and install Office 365, since there’s no need to buy all-new
software and licenses every time a new release becomes available. Instead,
businesses pay a per-user monthly subscription fee. While recurring, this fee
typically includes product updates, patches and new releases.

Con: You’ll Have to Continue Paying Subscription Fees for the
Duration of Your Use

On the other hand, very small or large businesses may not observe as many
cost benefits under a subscription-based payment model. Office 365 Enterprise
E5, Microsoft’s most robust Office 365 platform, has a $35.00 per month user
subscription fee and requires an annual commitment. Additionally, most people
find they only use about 20 percent of the functionality — and there are
certainly more affordable (and, in some cases, free) cloud-based word
processing tools available, such as Google Docs. While these programs do not
have all the bells and whistles of the full Microsoft Office 365 suite, many
companies find that they don’t need the additional features. All in all, it’s
worth investigating your staff use cases and working up a full cost analysis
before you decide to make the switch.

Pro: Switching to Office 365 Prepares You for the Future of Cloud

Cloud-based services like Office 365 aren’t going away anytime soon. If
anything, they’re the way most businesses are moving with new products and services.
Integrating with a trusted product like Office 365 is often a business’s first
introduction to cloud
, a sort of soft launch that lets you experience the benefits —
and examine the risks — without moving too many of your operations online. At High
Power Inc, we help businesses take this leap every day, drawing from our solid
background of networking and IT services to
make the transition as smooth as can be. If you’re serious about implementing a
cloud network — or just have questions as you transition to more online
applications — we’re happy to take the call. The cloud may not exactly be the
best thing since sliced bread, but it’s no flash in the pan, either.