By now you have likely heard that Microsoft has announced the end-of-life date for Windows Small Business Server 2003 as July 14, 2015. For many small businesses this news was like hearing that your favorite restaurant is closing its doors. The first thing you start thinking is “Where will I go?” Or “How will I find a new restaurant with the same great food for the same great price?” It’s not that you are panicked, but you are certainly not feeling great about it.

Not to worry. You will eventually find someplace else to go and after a few visits, you will probably feel comfortable again. It’s not the perfect example, but you get the picture and by now you have probably even researched some replacement options for your business.

But if you haven’t decided what you are going to do yet, one option that you may want to consider is Office 365. In a nut shell, Office 365 is a cloud based software service that is essentially a complete virtual office system. There are several advantages of using this type of software and here are just a few:

1)  Office 365 offers easy file storage in the cloud:

While some are not comfortable with cloud computing in general, it is truly the direction that most businesses are turning for file storage. The cloud offers the ability to store and access files from Word, Power Point, One Note, and Excel at any time, from anywhere. And if there’s a disaster (whether it’s man-made or natural), your files are backed up, off-site, and accessible to you no matter where you are.

This alone can get your business up and running and keep it running should a disaster occur. It also provides the security and protection for sensitive client information that many businesses require – it’s a built in Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) of sorts.

2)  System Maintenance just got easier:

With Office 365, you will no longer need to manually conduct maintenance patches and product updates. While some might feel this is giving up control, others will undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief as they will no longer have to deal with scheduling IT staff to conduct regular system updates and maintenance.

3)  Cost is everyone’s biggest concern:

Surprisingly, Office 365 is very cost effective. Pricing varies by number of users of course, but overall the pricing (based on current user feedback) is considered lower than before, especially when you consider the labor you were paying for updates.

4)  Email with Office 365 (using Outlook 365) is now easier:

Licensing costs are decreased and email settings and configurations can be customized too. And if there’s ever a power outage in the building, it won’t matter since it’s all virtual.
As it is with any new technology, there’s always bound to be some heartache during transition. Whether it’s a new phone, a new computer, or even figuring out all the bells and whistles in a new car, the learning curve can be frustrating.

Some users have reported difficulty during the migration process and the tedious nature of the set up process. To most, this is the worst part. But Microsoft does offer hands on support via phone and email chat to help you through the bumps. Sometimes knowing that there support is there is enough to help ease the transition.

No matter which way you are leaning during your decision making process, one thing is for sure, you MUST decide quickly. Migrations take considerable time and require extensive testing so you taking the “sooner rather than later” approach is definitely the way to go.

Robert A. Martin is the President of Great Lakes Computer and has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Akron. He joined the company in 1995 and has held multiple positions including Large Account Sales, Sales Manager, VP of Operations, and now serves as President.

Although he oversees all operations, Bob’s primary focus is in the areas of sales development, strategic direction, government sales and large account management. Bob lives in Avon, Ohio, is married and the father of two, and is an avid outdoorsman. Bob is the author of Great Lakes Tips on Tech Blog.

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