John Murray began his career with Xperience Group over 30 years ago as a desktop service engineer. As his career progressed, he focused on gaining a broad and thorough understanding of Office 365 through a series of technical and leadership roles. Currently, as Infrastructure Solution Specialist, John helps to drive the Xperience Group IT Infrastructure Solutions strategy – helping companies to understand how to best integrate and take advantage of Microsoft platform offerings, such us Office 365.

You have been working for Xperience for over 30 years now. Can you please explain how your role has developed over the years and when you started working with Office 365?

I started at Xperience as a desktop apprentice service engineer and as my knowledge increased I progressed to installing and supporting networks and server infrastructure. Twelve years ago I was presented with an opportunity to move from engineering into a sales role. Using the knowledge from working for eighteen years as an engineer, I felt very comfortable advising customers on how to build and implement their network and server infrastructure. Large part of this work, was based around the recommendations on Microsoft requirements, within the server options and licencing aspects. In the early years, this could be very complicated for the small business customer (SMB), making sure that they got the right products that met the business needs and at the same time ensuring that they complied with Microsoft licencing rules. Office 365 has vastly simplified this for the SMB, as a majority of the Microsoft products that are required within the business are available in a few very simple and cost effective pricing plans.

Office 365 is the fastest growing product in Microsoft’s history. Where do you think Office 365 success comes from?

In my opinion, there are three areas that the success of Office 365 comes from. Firstly Microsoft started developing this product from as early as 2003, with a programme called BPOS, this was released in 2008, so it’s been around for some time, is tried and tested. Then around 2011, it was further developed into what the current Office 365 product is today. Microsoft spent a lot of time and money getting the products, licencing models and more importantly the price points just right. Secondly, Office 365 has now made it possible for customers to access their information from any device at any time from practically anywhere in the world – the true power of Office 365 and Cloud computing. There are very few people today who would give it a second thought when they access services from ‘the cloud’, whether they are banking online or ordering products from Amazon. Lastly, the vast improvement in consumer connectivity. Years ago you would have never thought of moving documents up and down using a Dialup modem or the old ADSL but now there is BT Infinity, 3G, 4G, hotspots and you can easily access your data from almost anywhere.

Office 365 is a subscription based service. How is it beneficial for SMBs in comparison with the traditional Microsoft On-Premise solutions?

The problem with traditional on-premise solutions was that you had to buy the licences that you needed at that time, for the quantity of users or staff that you employed at that time, and as you increased staff you needed to buy more licences. The big thing the recent recession taught us was that businesses don’t always grow, sometimes they actually scale back, and in that case they have bought licences that are now redundant. With the subscription model, you only pay for what you need and when it comes to renewal, you can actually remove licences and reduce the number you are paying for. Like a utility such as electricity or your mobile phone bill customers will only pay for what they consume.

Based on your experience, how does Office 365 improve competitive advantage and business productivity?

Ultimately customers are selling products and services. Whenever businesses are presenting to customers, their ability to access data, collaborate with staff or communicate with their colleagues from any location, gives them a huge competitive advantage, especially in how efficient they can be in delivering those services and products to their customer base. From the business productivity point of view, you don’t need to be in the office anymore to work. For quite a number of remote users, that may be in hotel rooms etc they can actually work on proposals and communicate with their colleagues on Office 365.

A primary concern for businesses considering cloud solutions is security. Is Office 365 reliable and secure to use?

The best place to look at the security aspects of Office 365 is to go to the Microsoft dedicated site that shows all of the accreditations they have on security. When you consider Microsoft being such a big target from around the world, they invest a vast amount of money ensuring that everything is as secure as possible and there are a very small number of businesses, if any, that could ever deliver the same level of security that Microsoft are required to deliver in their data centres.

From your experience, which businesses benefit the most from Office 365?

Whilst I would say that O365 should benefit every business there are a couple of key business profiles that really make best use of Office 365. The first one would be start-up businesses. Companies that are starting up fresh and making their first venture into the world of products and services don’t need to buy serves any longer. They are able to go and rent the Microsoft products that they need to store their data in the cloud, let someone else manage that headache! Then as the business grows,  they can just add the users as and when they need to. They haven’t made a huge investment in IT to get started. Also the slightly bigger mid-sized businesses, where they have large quantities of users may see big advantages of adopting Office 365 from a pricing point of view, where Office 365 compared with some of the traditional licence models is about 40% cheaper. They can see big benefit and big cost saving.

What type of benefits can be expected when adopting Office 365?

The biggest benefit is the simplicity of being able to manage emails and calendars through exchange components of Office365. Most of the business world still communicates via email and being able to have a reliable service that can have emails coming to and from any device you decide to use, is a huge advantage. On top of that, customers really  benefit from using Skype for Business where they can communicate (video conference) with colleagues and other customers that are using the Office 365 platform. Lastly, Microsoft SharePoint, or Team sites as it is also known as in Office 365, is hugely beneficial for businesses looking to improve document management where you able to have central location into all your business data and everybody within the organisation knows where they can find it.

When would you say is a good time for businesses to consider moving to Office 365?

The best time to move to Office 365 is now – there is no reason why not to. Lots of organisations will take a look at what investment they have made in Microsoft licensing previously and try to maximise that. Quite a lot of organisations will look to whether they’re doing a refresh of the current server platform or whether moving to Office 365 is right for them. Organisations that are in the current Microsoft licencing scheme which is coming up for renewal – it’s a good time for them to look at moving to Office 365 from a  potential cost saving point of view, where they can take a look at reducing their annual and current licencing costs, when moving from their current licencing platform to Office 365.

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