Microsoft announces cloud computing suite 'Office 365'

Cloud computing

Microsoft has introduced its cloud-based Office 365 product, designed to help businesses improve productivity.

The cloud service, which can be bought in various packages for businesses of various sizes, brings together Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online.

Office 365 is compatible with the "most popular" browsers, smartphones and desktop applications, according to Microsoft, and can be set up in only 15 minutes.

"Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity, all in a single cloud service," said Kurt DelBene, president of the Office division at Microsoft.

"With Office 365, your local bakery can get enterprise-calibre software and services for the first time, while a multinational pharmaceutical company can reduce costs and more easily stay current with the latest innovations."

On the low end of the scale, small firms can get hold of Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and an external website for 5.25 (4.62) per user, per month.

For larger organisations the 22.75 per user, per month deal would be more suitable, providing them with a plethora of features including Office Professional Plus, email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging and videoconferencing.

The cloud offering will not be available until next year, but this week Microsoft has started testing Office 365 with a few thousand organisations in 13 different parts of the world.

This beta project will incorporate more organisations in the coming months.

Later in 2011, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will also be included in Office 365 and a package for education will also debut next year to provide students with cloud-based technologies.

Read on for our feature on why it is time for businesses to start thinking seriously about the cloud.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.