Microsoft launches Office 365 business cloud trial offering

Microsoft has announced the South African trial of what it dubs “the next-generation cloud productivity service for businesses,” Microsoft Office 365.

Hosted in the software manufacturer’s data centres, Office 365 is Microsoft’s business productivity platform. This trial will allow South African businesses and users to try Office 365 for free for up to six months, until the service’s official South African launch in 2012.

Microsoft explains that, with Office 365, people can come together from virtually anywhere and work together more easily, meeting face-to-face online, sharing work in real-time, and accessing email and calendars on virtually any device.

Applications such as MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook are at “the heart of Office 365,” the company explains in a media release. Looking to woo potential customers who may be using other services, Microsoft also points out that no existing Microsoft infrastructure is necessary to use Office 365.

“Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity, all in a single cloud service. We have had a huge amount of support from our local partners and customers to bring cloud computing to the region,” said Microsoft SA’s marketing and operations director Melanie Botha.

“Recent research from Springboard, an analyst firm owned by Forrester, said that 67% of organisations in the Middle East and Africa are either currently using or planning cloud initiatives, and we anticipate Office 365 to be a great success here.”

Botha explained that Microsoft believes that the early adopters of the service will be from the SME (small to medium enterprises) sector. According to Botha, this will be a boon to them, giving them access to the same business solutions used by major enterprises.

“Small companies can now take advantage of the best technologies the largest companies use, but on a scalable pay-as-you-go basis, with solutions that are easy to get and use. Now small companies can cater to their technology needs without big infrastructure investments, and get access to several technology tools they didn’t have before.”

One of Microsoft’s boasts about Office 365 is that, as it is based on familiar tools, moving to the cloud doesn’t require people to change the way they work while business owners get the reliability, security and IT controls they need in the cloud.

Customers who get started with the Office 365 trial can subscribe and continue using the accounts they have set up to the service when it goes to commercial availability next year.



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