In The News

The Benefits of Outlook on Office 365, and How to Determine the Right Solution

TOTOWA, N.J., Oct. 15, 2014 – Support end-of-life for popular Windows products, and the growing popularity and improved security of cloud-based computing are prompting small- and mid-size businesses to closely consider shifting away from traditional, in-house mail servers – and with good reason, according to Michael Mullin, president of Integrated Business Systems (IBS) in Totowa. To that end, the technology company’s Managed IT Services team has transitioned a number of clients to Microsoft® Office 365, which offers Outlook on a cloud-based platform.

“Microsoft has phased out Windows XP and Server 2003, with Small Business Server soon to follow in July 2015,” Mullin said. “In turn, companies are faced with the need to invest in their technology, and the cost can be substantial whether they have just a few dozen or hundreds of desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Updating software packages may not be all that expensive, but on-premises mail and file-and-print servers are big-ticket items.”

To that end, IBS urges companies to consider cloud-based options. At a cost of just $4 per user per month (after setup and licensing fees) for Outlook – a mere $200 for 50 workstations, or slightly more for different variations of Microsoft Office – IBS can assist an organization in choosing the configuration that best fits their requirements. Office 365 presents a major potential cost savings, bundling mail with other popular business productivity applications.

It also offers a built-in disaster recovery function. Microsoft automatically backs up to multiple locations, so if a user’s primary cloud goes down, they can put their data (and applications) back up via another path. And, importantly, Office 365 users receive automatic software updates as well.

For Rubin Management, a family-owned real estate business and long-time IBS client located in Jamaica, N.Y., its transition in early 2014 made sense. “We needed to upgrade our server, which was older and no longer going to be supported,” explained Rick Lazaro, controller. “IBS suggested the cloud-based option, and it seemed like a good solution for us. The transition was seamless; IBS set it up and gave us passwords. The simplicity, backup and price point makes it totally worthwhile. Additionally, we no longer have issues with mailbox size, which had been a problem in the past.”

Who should transition to Microsoft’s cloud-based computing? “Some would argue that any company with less than 500 employees would be crazy not to take advantage of this platform immediately,” Mullin said. “At IBS, our advice is not that black and white.”

First, while Microsoft talks about the simplicity of the transition, PCs need to be running Outlook 2013 in order for it to work. That means those running 2003 or 2007 – i.e. the vast majority – need to be upgraded to the most current version. While this typically is a hurdle rather than a hindrance, it is important to understand, Mullin noted.

Second, Outlook on the cloud is completely dependent on the Internet. “Companies with poor connection reliability due to geography or less-than-stellar ISPs most likely should stick with buying their own, premises-based server and software,” Mullin said.

IBS client Lester M. Entin Associates, another small, privately held real estate company based in Roseland, N.J., has been running the cloud-based Outlook product for nearly three years. “We conduct most of our correspondence with our tenants via email,” noted Jennifer Jarabek, the firm’s office administrator. “We also use Outlook for our contacts, calendars and tasks. The cloud-based product is always accessible as long as we have Internet connectivity. This translates to our mobile devices as well, which is a big advantage.”

IBS helps its clients lay out the pros and cons of why they should or should not migrate to the cloud, and what the upgrade path would look like. For those that move forward, the firm’s Managed Services team handles the entire shift, including working with Microsoft, migrating everything to the cloud and acting as a front-line support option on an ongoing basis.

A recognized leader in providing integrated property management and accounting software and services, IBS established its Managed Services department in 1999 as an outgrowth of its offerings for real estate clients. Today, the firm provides full IT outsourcing for IBS system users as well as a growing, diversified customer base of small- and mid-size companies in a range of industries.