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What nobody tells you about deploying Microsoft 365

Nobody likes to be told one thing but then sold something completely different. Businesses don't last when they overpromise and underdeliver to their customers. We believe it's important for buyers to get the straight story about products and services before doing business with a company. That's why Amaxra wants everyone who is considering a Microsoft 365 For Business deployment in their organization to get the facts about this cloud-based service.

Our company is an early adopter of Microsoft 365 and the cloud. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, our consultants are certified experts when it comes to making the most out of an investment in Microsoft 365. Based on our real-world experiences, here are the three things everyone needs to know about Microsoft 365 before deploying the service at their organization:

Microsoft 365 does not require an internet connection to operate

In our experience, the majority of organizations considering Microsoft 365 For Business fall into one of these categories:

  1. Owners of legacy Microsoft Office 2013 or 2016 licenses who have put off migrating to the cloud and now want to go "all in"
  2. Current subscribers to Office 365 Business or Business Premium who recognize the value of adding advanced cybersecurity and free Windows 10 Pro on every PC for only a few dollars more per user
  3. Small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) who regret purchasing the cheaper Google G Suite and are unsatisfied with its limitations compared to Microsoft Office

Those in latter category is small, but we've seen among them significant confusion about the need for internet connectivity when it comes to Microsoft 365. A dependency on internet uptime to get work done is a tangible risk to SMBs. When most entrepreneurs hear the words "cloud based," they usually think of Google's online-only version of Microsoft Office called G Suite, which is basically useless without an internet connection. So, the "cloud powered" marketing around Microsoft 365 For Business actually makes some leery about deploying Microsoft 365; erroneously believing their employees lose all productivity if they're not connected to the internet.

But with Microsoft 365, you get an integrated solution that brings together Office 365 (the absolute standard in business productivity apps), enterprise-grade cybersecurity, and device management capabilities. It's true these capabilities are enhanced by Microsoft cloud infrastructure and the internet, but unlike Google G Suite apps, all of your Microsoft 365 apps still work when you aren't connected to the internet. Microsoft 365 For Business includes familiar business productivity and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook which will all function just fine without an internet connection. You won't get new email in Outlook without an internet connection, but you also don't get locked out of your Outlook Calendar, Business Contacts, and email inbox when you're offline. Everything you changed in Outlook or your other documents while you are temporarily offline automatically synchronizes with the cloud-based portion of Microsoft 365 once your internet is restored.

Microsoft 365 makes you productive when you're mobile

If your internet is down in the office, then Microsoft 365 For Business empowers you to go to a coffee shop or home and work from anywhere. The offline/online productivity capabilities of Microsoft 365 mean that nothing gets lost when you're working on a shared Word document and then the corporate network goes down. Everyone in your company could simply pick up their laptops, head to their favorite spot with public Wi-Fi (or out into the sunshine… a rare and precious experience here in Seattle), and not lose any work.

For those companies allowing employees to use consumer devices on the corporate network such as personal Android smartphones or iPad tablets, deploying Microsoft 365 on these mobile devices come with two major advantages:

  1. Enterprise-grade device management and security capabilities via Intune. Previously only available as an add-on for Office 365, Intune comes standard with Microsoft 365 For Business, enabling you to securely manage iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices. Intune is a software as a service (SaaS) tool that does not require an app to be installed to use—all device administration can be done from any web browser. Because Intune is integrated with Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), it can remotely manage all (whether corporate-issued or personally owned) devices that connect to your corporate network, harden those devices against viruses and malware, and ensure all devices and apps are compliant with your company's security requirements
  2. If Intune sounds a little too complex, then you can use Microsoft 365's simplified management console to administer corporate device and data policies. For example, with Microsoft 365 you can enforce cybersecurity policies such as automatically deleting business data on a mobile device after a prescribed amount of time of that device not connecting to the service, requiring fingerprint verification (if the device is capable) to access Office apps, and preventing company data from being cut-and-pasted from an Office app into personal apps on the phone or tablet

Every PC gets a free in-place upgrade to Windows 10 Pro

It should be obvious that a Windows PC is not required to take advantage of Microsoft 365. Deploying Microsoft 365 at your business means your employees get Office 365 plus enterprise-grade cybersecurity on a diverse ecosystem of devices running all major operating systems. But one of the most valuable benefits of deploying Microsoft 365 For Business is the fact that you can install an in-place upgrade of Windows 10 Pro over your existing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs for free. It's called an "in-place" upgrade because installing Windows 10 Pro means you keep all of the previous settings and apps that were already installed on your Windows 7/Windows 8.1 PC.

The reasoning for Microsoft 365 to upgrade all of your company's PCs to Windows 10 Pro for free is to maintain consistency for the sake of cybersecurity. Windows 7 was publicly released in 2009 so in terms of software it's very old. The advanced cloud-based security features inherent with Microsoft 365 are made to work on modern operating systems (as we've already established with devices running Apple iOS and Google Android). Rather than force companies to buy all new PCs, Microsoft added the benefit of installing a full licensed copy of Windows 10 Pro on every Windows 7/Windows 8.1 PC with a Microsoft 365 subscription. The benefit to your business is that you can have a diverse ecosystem of devices (running Android, iOS, and Windows 10 Pro) that are secured and centrally managed.

However, before deploying your in-place upgrade of Windows 10 Pro to the existing Windows 7/Windows 8.1 machine, you should make sure the PC is ready to run Windows 10. Amaxra consultants deploying Microsoft 365 have found that most PCs meeting the following requirements install and run the free Windows 10 Pro that comes with Microsoft 365:

  • Currently runs a genuine license for Windows 7 Pro, Windows 8/8.1 Pro, or Windows 10 Pro prior to version 1703. To determine which version of Windows 10 you're currently running, navigate to the Settings > System > About menu
  • An AMD or Intel processor that is 2 GHz or faster. Some laptops and tablets made in the past five years use low-power processors rated for less than 2 GHz (the AMD "APU" series and Intel "Core M" series) but these are usually good enough for Windows 10 Pro
  • At least 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of free hard drive space. Technically, you can install Windows 10 Pro on PCs with less RAM and free hard drive space than this but Amaxra consultants discourage it because we have found that customers are unsatisfied with the experience

For PCs that meet these minimum requirements, deploying Windows 10 Pro as an in-place upgrade is relatively quick and painless. An interesting side effect of upgrading to Windows 10 Pro using this method is that upgraded PC retains the Windows 10 Pro license even if you decide to end your Microsoft 365 For Business subscription. While all of the cloud-based security enforcement controls and Office 365 apps will cease to function, the Windows 10 Pro license will remain on the machine.

No matter the size of your organization, your best bet for a successful Microsoft 365 For Business deployment is to engage with a Microsoft Partner. Amaxra is a Microsoft Gold Partner with extensive training and experience. Our consultants will assess and understand your environment and needs to make the transition to Microsoft 365 go smoothly. After Microsoft 365 is deployed, Amaxra also has packages to deliver 24/7 helpdesk support and online training to enhance your productivity with Microsoft 365.

Contact me at mike.arntzen@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

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