Office 365 and the additional features you need to know

 In Practice Management

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Office 365 – more useful features

In this article I follow up my previous article on Office 365 and look at some of the additional services provided with this cloud based version of Microsoft’s Office Suite.

Lync

Lync is a particularly useful tool provided for free with most levels of Office 365. Lync is Microsoft’s Messaging service for business. Users familiar with Microsoft Messenger or Skype’s messenging service will feel right at home as it has a very similar look and feel. Basically Lync provides

  • One to one text messages – Including to mobile phones for which Microsoft provides clients for Android, iPhone and of course Windows Phone.
  • Audio and video communication
  • Conference calling

The beauty of Lync is that this is all in house peer to peer communication; great for private chatting about business matters. The other really good thing from a legal perspective is that transcripts of Lync text conversations are stored in your Office 365 Outlook account for easy archival.

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Sharepoint

Sharepoint started off as Microsoft’s attempt to make it easy for companies to share information through an intranet web site. It has turned into much more than that and is now a hub for collaborative working.  Explaining all the benefits of Sharepoint is an article in its own right but suffice to say it is a very powerful tool for working on shared documents and sharing information between team members. It comes for free as part of most Office 365 packages. One really nice thing is that the admin page within the Office 365 Portal makes it really easy to choose what bits of SharePoint you want to use and who you want to have access to them. This is a lot easier than the traditional self-hosted approach.

Yammer

Whilst not truly part of the Office 365 offering all Office 365 users do get the option to sign up for Yammer Microsoft’s internal social networking tool. Think of this as having your own internal Twitter system which only your staff have access to. Like Twitter it has the advantages of being a great way to disseminate information rapidly to a lot of people and give them the ability to comment on that information. It would obviously be wise to consider any compliance implications of its use and most firms would set up codes of practice. Currently Yammer is free but I suspect Microsoft will charge at some point.

SkyDrive pro

Each Office 365 user gets allocated a sizeable chunk of Cloud Storage on Microsoft’s Sky Drive service. By default all Office 365 applications will attempt to store to this Sky Drive storage. One thing to note is that SkyDrive pro includes team storage as well allowing documents to be shared between users. Users do need to be careful when saving documents to ensure that they are placed in the correct SkyDrive storage area if a document is not meant to be shared with the team.

Hosting of these additional services

As I mentioned in my last Office 365 article Microsoft does store EU users data in the EU (primarily in its huge data centre in Dublin) and has agreed to the recent EU Data Protection articles but it should be remembered as a US company Microsoft do have to obey any US Government requests for information under the Patriot Act. This has obvious implications for compliance.

Conclusion

Provided the compliance issues are not too onerous these additions to the Office 365 portfolio present real added value with Lync in particular being a boon for companies with remote workers.

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