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By Cindy Bates, Vice President, US SMB, Microsoft Corp.
Yesterday was a bit of a different day for me. Instead of conducting business meetings, I found myself paddling down rivers and riding on rainbows. Of course, these were metaphoric rivers and rainbows. In reality, I spent the morning doing imaginative yoga with a class of pre-K students at Carden Cascade Academy in Hillsboro, Oregon. This class teaches kids to use their imaginations in the practice of yoga.
The class was being taught by Jamie Hopkins of Imagination Yoga, an Office 365 customer and Ready for Work contest winner. Ready for Work contest winners received $50,000 in technology and business services and a Microsoft executive to work for them for a day. So, I packed my bags and headed down to Portland to experience a day in the life of Imagination Yoga.
Two sisters, Jessica and Jamie, along with their brother, Jon, make up Imagination Yoga. It is a family business focused on a simple yet important mission-inspiring kids to move. The Imagination Yoga team works in schools throughout the Portland area to teach kids to imagine the possible, to be kind and thoughtful, and to become more active and healthy.
But for Imagination Yoga it is not all fun and yoga. Because they are so passionate about their core mission, the team is very focused on building a strong and sustainable business. After a morning yoga class with their students, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon hearing about their business and long-term goals. I came away with a few key takeaways:
Jamie, Jessica, and Jon are wonderful and inspiring people, and I came away energized by their mission, by their love of the kids they teach, and by their focus on growing the business. Hearing about their plans for the future, I realized that Microsoft, with services like Office 365, is truly helping small businesses imagine the possible.
We all pretty much realize that Microsoft needs to make more money. This "transition" represents a 6,000% increase in price for what most of us have been paying as small business concerns. Most of us only need e-mail and a web hosting. We don't need all the other "features" Microsoft will be selling those of us foolish enough to migrate over to 365. For our sake, we should all be using this forum to help all of us find a cost effective alternative - we'll be migrating over to ipage.com. Vista made me a Mac user, this will pretty much bring to an end any semblance of use or reliance on any Microsoft based service or product. Good riddance. I guess I should thank them for their arrogance and patronizing business model. I will also be posting an "away message" that explains to anyone attempting to visit my site or communicate with me regarding Microsoft's current "business unfriendly" service disruption decision affecting my business. Good luck out there.
@Jed, you make 6,000% sound like $6000 when in fact its $6/mo. I have 3 business partners so my business can handle the extra $24/mo. There are many differences in email capabilities between Office 365 and Hotmail that make Office 365 worth it. That said I do think the SharePoint capabilities in Office 365 are far to complex. Frankly I thought the same about OLSB and thats why I think few ever used it.
@Simon, I've got similiar concerns about the way Microsoft has handled OLSB. My guts tells me that Microsoft should be focused on moving email accounts of OLSB customers over to Windows Live Admin instead of Office 365 and utilize the SkyDrive and Live Groups functionality for collaboration. I suspect that will fit the bill of most OLSB customers (non profits etc). Those who are using SharePoint in OLSB probably are happy to see the advancements in Office 365.
Me personally, I am cautiously optimistic. I will be moving my business site to run on WordPress and signing up to Office 365. The biggest thing that Office 365 lacks is a "Lite" CRM capability that OLSB sort of touched on but never went anywhere. Thats why I am cautious. Hopefully Microsoft will be more forth coming about roadmaps then they were about Office Live Small Business.
Btw, if a Microsoft Product Team is listening...please consider additional (P) plan addons.
- Lite version of Dynamics CRM
- Skype In/Out Services that are compatible with Lync client and/or hardware and do not require on-premise server
- Either provide an easy means to enable SharePoint blog on public site or provide Low cost / unmanaged WordPress hosting in Windows Azure.
Now, I fall right in the target group. I run a small business myself and quite frankly.. No offense intended here (I know I can be quite cynical at times) I think that Outlook's 'Business Contact Manager' offers /far/ greater support than Office 365 ever can!
Sure; the idea of working online sounds like a cheap way to circumvent investments. In my experience its a smokescreen. Keep well in mind: I am /not/ 'dissing' Offcice 365 in any way what so ever. But I am being critical about the online part.
Put simply: if you fully rely on an online solution for office products then it IS going to haunth you. What happens when the Internet connection suddenly fails? Or your ISP has odd issues as such the speed is ssssslloooowwwwwww. ?
No offense what so ever intended but small companies are better off believing they save money by adopting a free Office solution /or/ investing in Office 2010. Key here is that Office 2010 offers both online and offline experiences. So should that ISP does go 'poof' then your working day doesn't have to be over at 11am (imagine the costs if it was!).
I've been through a /very/ rough time last week and quite frankly; if it wasn't for Office 2010 I truly think I wouldn't have made it so far...
IMO 365 is a very good effort on the part of Microsoft. But honestly... I don't think it can /ever/ weigh up against Office 2010. Its the same thing with getting a 'free' Office version; the money which you save on purchase costs will get back to you (sometimes threefold) on put in hours to get something done.
As for that experience.. I strongly believe in share & share alike, you can read how Office 2010 saved my hide right here:
(sorry for being a bit cynical here ;-))
Not sure if MS is listening. Office 365 has absolutely no service. We have a request open 33 days! They just do not care. We get nice emails saying they are working on the problem.
Simon, Microsoft has put into place a structure for customers getting some support from the MS partner that the customer aligns with. I agree with the segmentation of the solutions for example where one note app on my phone doesn't accept my office 365 account. Although at One Up Solutions Northwest Inc. ( www.1upnw.com ) We have been seeing happy Portland and Beaverton area Office 365 customers that we are able to support when needs arise. Saving money while increasing reliability and productivity. Office 365 has been a great upgrade for most small to medium sized businesses. What issues are you referring to? A major portion of our customers have been some what set it and forget it as the administration is minimal depending on the business.