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What You Need to Get Started with Office 365

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 10/31/2011

Formerly known as Microsoft Office Live Professional, users are now given the opportunity to use the new Office 365 cloud storage and browser based office software suite. There are plenty of options, but which one is for your business?

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    If you’re looking for a way to use one of the Microsoft Office online services in a corporate environment, you’ve probably stumbled across the term Microsoft Office Live Professional.

    Sadly, that isn’t a product that currently exists – instead, you will find yourself looking at one of the more up to date alternatives available under the Office 365 umbrella title.

    Don’t be disappointed, however; Microsoft Office 365 offers a wealth of online Office apps that you can easily access in your browser, with the documents you create either stored in the cloud or downloaded to your computer. This means that you can access browser-based versions of popular Office apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint from almost anywhere an Internet connection is available, and as you get used to the service you will notice how the way you work changes more and more!

    So while Microsoft Office Live is no longer available, the spirit of the online suite lives on in Microsoft Office 365. Let’s have a look at what is available…

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    What You Get with Office 365

    What You Get with Office 365 There are two versions of Office 365. One is for small businesses while the other is for midsize businesses and enterprises, and you can sign up for each online.

    The small business version offers web based apps that are hosted by Microsoft, alongside services such as email and calendar (Exchange standard depending on your device) for desktops, notebooks and phone, an easy to build website for your business and online audio/video meetings with friends and colleagues around the world. This is all held together by Microsoft’s promise of 99% uptime for the server and the online storage of your data along with Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange antivirus and anti-spam protection. This version is for use by up to 50 users.

    Midsize and enterprise class business will be more interested in self-hosting the service, however, and this is made possible thanks to Microsoft Lync and SharePoint providing excellent integration with the browser-based web apps. With your local IT in control, full access is given to the administration of the services, and data can be stored onsite or in the cloud! There is virtually no limit to the number of users you can have with this version.

    (Note that a service for users in education facilities is also available.)

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    Signing up to Office 365

    So how do you get started with Office 365?

    Well, the first step is to sign up, but how you might do this depends on your business type. The best way to proceed is to begin with the trial package, a 30 day free trial that allows you to configure and test Office 365 and establish how it will suit you and your needs.

    This can be done by heading to the free trial site (you can find a link in the References section below) and selecting the appropriate option. You will then be required to complete an online form and submit your information, although if your business already has a Microsoft Online Services ID then this will not be necessary.

    Once signed up, you will then need to check the instructions, which will recommend that your end users have access to Microsoft Office Professional Plus (2010 or 2007); Office 365 is designed to integrate with this version of the suite. You will also need to check the system requirements for that version of the office suite.

    It will then be time to download any necessary files, and then begin the process of accessing and configuring your Office 365 account!

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    Using Microsoft Office 365 and Online Apps

    With Microsoft Office Professional Plus configured and installed and access to Office 365 fully configured, your users will now be able to use the apps.

    This is best understood by using Outlook as an example. As you know, you use Outlook to connect to a mail server to download your messages. Outlook is featured in Office 365, and can be used both in its desktop form and in the browser if you are offsite. Similarly, Word, Excel and PowerPoint are also available as applications on your computer and in your browser, with the data from each saved to a remote server just as email is stored on a mail server.

    So what does all of this mean?

    Basically, your users acquire almost universal access to their documents and the ability to edit them whatever their current location. Mobile devices such as Windows Phones can be used to open documents and save them to your Office 365 account or SharePoint server, and all of this data is safely stored on resilience servers with space that won’t run out!

    While Office 365 is not the solution for every business, it is certainly one that you should spend time investigating as an option, particularly if office downsizing is path that your organization is considering.