Microsoft’s (News - Alert) strategy with Office 365 has been that of syndication. It powers the robust, cloud-based suite while other service providers add additional features to it. The latest provider to offer Office 365 is Telenor (News - Alert).
Some of Microsoft’s major points towards the benefits of this strategy include:
- The company provides SaaS (News - Alert) applications
- Partners deliver Tier 1 and Tier 2 support
- A partner can bill the customer directly– a key capability that traditional VARs won't gain until Office 365 Open arrives
- The combined offering is Office 365 plus the partner's value-added subscription services.
- Partners set the end customer prices and bills for those services and can leverage co-branding functions with Microsoft
- The technology giant sells services to partner at wholesale prices
- Various discounts apply based on certain performance metrics
There is a larger question, however, of how Office 365 stacks up against competition. Among its stiffest competition is Google (News - Alert) Apps, which offers very similar services. Yet, there are some key differences between the two. While both offer e-mail, word processing, and the like, Microsoft Office has a more intuitive offering than Google Apps. With any business, there is also the issue of uptime. While both Google Apps and Office 365 guarantee 99.9 percent uptime, these guarantees are executed differently.
Additionally, Google Apps is a fully cloud-based solution meaning the entire suite lives in the cloud and can be accessed from any Web-enabled device. There is no additional software or hardware needed. Office 365, on the other hand, is a hybrid cloud solution, meaning it sometimes requires on-premises servers and desktop management tools to run properly. A key difference in the promise of 99.9 percent upkeep is that Google Apps accounts for planned services and updates, whereas Office 365’s does not.
There is also the issue of cost. Google offers the cheaper suite at $50 a year, whereas Office 365 starts at about $72 a year. These differences may be the deciding factors for businesses deciding whether to go with Google Apps or Office 365.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein