Today’s guest blogger is Lars Riehn, founder and CEO of infoWAN Datenkommunikation GmbH, a Microsoft partner that offers a complete array of consulting, training, support, software development, and software distribution services to customers ranging from small start-up companies to large enterprise organizations. Founded in 1996, infoWAN has offices throughout Germany as well as solid international partnerships with software and hardware manufacturers. During the past two years, the company has helped approximately 50 customers migrate to Office 365.
I founded infoWAN nearly 20 years ago as a management-consulting firm for organizations with complex IT infrastructures, and today our clients include governments, educational institutions and businesses of all sizes. For the past 12 months, we’ve been seeing a really strong trend of customer movement to the cloud. People have moved beyond the stage of simply asking for information about cloud-based services and are actually adopting Office 365, choosing OneDrive for Business, and relying on Microsoft Azure for all kinds of workloads.
The move to the cloud has been slow in Germany compared to some other countries. Germany has strict data-protection laws and a strong sense of privacy. Still, the cloud-adoption wave is building, and bringing with it great opportunities for us and our customers. As part of that trend, Office 365 is becoming an increasingly important part of our business as more customers choose it over other options. In 2012, Office 365 and other cloud-related projects accounted for about 2 percent of our revenue. In 2013, it was more like 20 percent. This year, we expect it to represent a third or more. Office 365 is definitely a growing business for us, and so are Azure and Windows Intune.
Why customers choose Office 365
Our customers have many different reasons for choosing Office 365 and other cloud-based services from Microsoft, but the primary reasons are speed of deployment, cost-effectiveness and ease of use. Some have a good business case that proves they can save money. Some like the flexibility—Microsoft offers customers the choice of cloud, on-premise or hybrid options, and they can start slow and add seats in phases, which works well in our cautious business community here in Germany. With Google, it’s all cloud or nothing. And sometimes a customer really needs Information Rights Management. It can be very complex to manage IRM on-premise, but they can get it easily from the cloud.
Another thing our customers really like about Office 365 is the continuous update and how quickly they get new features. They don’t have to wait three years for a new version of the software to come out. They benefit from Microsoft’s ongoing innovation in the cloud. They’re pleasantly surprised by the new features and services that Microsoft provides at no extra cost. All of a sudden, they have a lot of new options, and all it costs them is the click of a button. They really like that there is such quick feedback between what the user community is asking and what Microsoft is delivering.
How enterprise customers compare Office 365 and Google Apps
In our experience, enterprise customers in Germany rarely use Google Apps. Among customers with more than 250 seats, we don’t know anyone using Google Apps right now. Part of it is trust. When our customers compare Microsoft and Google in terms of cloud security, they see that Microsoft is doing a lot more to ensure that. With Google, you never know what datacenter you’re in or where it’s located. We’re finding that people just seem to trust Microsoft more than they trust Google.
Another big difference between Office 365 and Google Apps is customer satisfaction. On paper, before they start using it, Google Apps sometimes looks “good enough” to smaller and even bigger organizations. But once they start using it, especially if they are familiar with Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Microsoft Office, they often realize they are missing things they really want that Google Apps can’t deliver. There’s a level of overall end-user happiness that they just don’t get from Google Apps compared to Office 365.
A big win for Office 365
One of our enterprise customers that did try Google Apps, and later switched to Office 365, is Sixt, one of the world’s largest car-rental companies with offices in more than 100 countries. Some years ago, Sixt was using an on-premise, open-source system when they decided to make a change and move to Google Apps. It was an attractive option for Sixt, because they already had a strong relationship with Google through their online advertising. Ultimately, however, they switched their nearly 6,000 seats to Office 365, and they are very happy with that decision. They really like the integration and the familiar interface. And at the end of the day, they like how everything just seems to work more smoothly than what they experienced with Google Apps.
What we see again and again in our business is that Microsoft is really trying to give customers what they want. When I look at the Microsoft roadmap for the rest of this calendar year and all of the great things that are coming, I don’t see any way that Google is going to be able to keep up with that.