Thursday, December 20, 2012

Closing Out 2012: Top 10 Office 365 Searches, Statistics and News

Gold top 10 winner As the end of the year approaches, I am looking forward to many exciting changes to Office 365 in 2013.  I've talked about them a couple times and even recorded a webinar.  I thought it would be interesting for a change now to talk about where Office 365 has been not just in 2012 but back through it's inception as a replacement for BPOS in 2010.

To start with, I was curious about how Office 365's exploding popularity was embodied in internet searches... and found that Google conveniently tracks those things for us and has a website (Google Trends) that presents exactly what I was looking for.  For those Microsoft hawks, I did try Bing first.  They have a Popular Now page, but it did not have the information I wanted.

So, here's what I found with regards to interest in Office 365 over time:
  1. The first searches were in January 2005 but those are probably just flukes.
  2. The first real news articles appear in March or April of 2010. may have broken the news on the web on 9/12/10.
  3. Searches started taking off October 10-16, 2010
  4. Peak interest spiked early on 10/17 - 10/23 in 2010, and again to its highest historic level in 2011 between 6/26 and 7/2.  Interest has been steadily gaining throughout the entire period.
Regional interest in Office 365 is fascinating to look at as well.  As you might expect, western countries like the US. UK, and Australia have all been intensely interested in Office 365.  While other English-speaking countries have been interested (South Africa, India, and Canada), the most interest has actually originated in a couple very small countries: New Zealand and Ireland top the chart.  Also interestingly, Dublin and Singapore are the two top cities searching on Office 365.

The terms being searched are about what you might expect:

If you want to compare Office 365 to Google Apps check out this chart:

In it you can see that the search term "Google Business" started out more popular than "Office 365" but that in recent weeks Microsoft has pushed past Google.  With the changes in both services over the last several months this shouldn't be all that surprising.  Consider these recent changes in the industry:

  1. Google announced that Google Apps for Business users that wanted true e-mail archiving (putting them on parity roughly with Office 365) would be charged $10/user/month or $120 per user per year.  Previously the pricing was about $60 per year per user for Google Apps for Business.
  2. Microsoft has cut pricing recently, reducing even the version of Office 365 that includes a subscription to Office Professional Plus to $20/user/month.  At the low end, you can get Office 365 e-mail only for $4/user/month or the E1 plan for $8.  The Kiosk Worker plans are roughly comparable with Google Apps for Business and start at $4/user/month.
  3. The Office 365 platform is about to undergo a major upgrade in Q1 of 2013 and will soon add many more advanced features, a streamlined interface and an even better subscription model for purchasing Microsoft Office... including the new Office 2013.
  4. Google has continued to make "interesting" business decisions that alienate their core users.  For instance, they have been aggressively retiring support for internet browsers that many people still use.  They've also recently announced that Google Apps will no longer support Microsoft Activesync, the protocol that enables mobile devices (your phone or tablet) to synchronize their Gmail.  Customers are being forced to manually download e-mail to their devices instead, infuriating and confusing users.
  5. Microsoft is increasing the length of their free trials from 30 days to 90 days to help disenfranchised Gmail users make the switch, and more and more we hear that they are indeed doing so.
For more about recent changes in the industry check out the news about Office 365.

In summary, there are an increasing number of good reasons to consider Office 365 for your cloud productivity platform.  It was designed by the world's leader in business productivity software for business users.  Google Apps is an e-mail system afterthought created by a company that developed a web search service for the purposes of getting advertising revenue.

Which would you trust your data with?
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spend it While You Can - Deals, Discounts and Tax Credits to Take this Year

Tax (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)
As 2012 comes to a close everyone is scrambling to take advantage of last minute deals, discounts, tax credits, etc.  Maybe you have a budget that needs to be depleted before the end of the year so you can justify the same (or an increased) budget next year?  Maybe you've made more revenue this year than planned and tax credits could be used to offset the increased taxes.

You may be able to take a deduction on your 2012 taxes by spending up to $139,000 on a single piece of equipment or a total of no more than $560,000 for the year.  That expenditure comes right off the top of your gross income.  There are also deductions for hiring Veterans... so if you need to expand this might be a good time.  See more on the SBA blog.

Information Technology continues to be a good place to spend your end-of-year capital and here are some of my ideas on how you could put those funds to work:
  1. Evaluate cloud services - now is a great time to sign up for Office 365.
    • Smaller businesses may be able to take advantage of free Migration Wizard licenses through a Cloud Accelerate Microsoft Partner.There may also be incentives (up to 15% refund on purchases) available to offset deployment costs.  Also, the Cloud Easy program ends at the close of December.
    • Larger businesses (250+ seats) could benefit from signing up for an Enterprise License Agreement (or EA) with Microsoft.  There are discounts on Office 365 for customers with EAs right now.  You may qualify for $40/seat for up to 3,000 seats in deployment assistance funds, but you must be working with a Microsoft Partner.
    • Larger businesses can also receive discounts on adding Office 365 to their EA - in come cases you can add Office 365 E3 to your EA for as little as $1 per seat.
    • You can engage in a planning and design project to take advantage of these funds without actually performing a migration in many cases.  You don't have to finish migrating in the next two weeks... you just have to get started!
  2. Engage an IT audit - pay for an audit today, have it invoiced in the next week and a half but have the work performed after January 1.  An audit may help you justify your budget as well... kill two birds with one stone.
  3. Purchase new computers (buy Microsoft Surface tablets for your executive staff - or for your whole staff!)
  4. Perform workspace upgrades - buy new keyboards, mice and monitors.  Its a sure way to make your staff happy - everyone likes bigger monitors and two are definitely better than one.
  5. Upgrade your office network - get a new copier or printer, purchase a new firewall or those switches you've been eying.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Kansas City Office 365 Lunch and Learn

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