After my last post about Office365, I thought that I would write a bit more about why I think it would be such a good product for us; the rationale behind the thinking.
Some 10 years ago, less than half of the office staff had PCs, and there were perhaps 2 PCs in the factory area. Now, everyone in the offices has a PC (some have more than one) and in the factory areas, there are just over 2 PCs for every 5 staff. (These are shared by people and used as required to access relevant data.) As you can see, there has been a significant growth in the use of IT systems in the last decade.
About 6 years ago, some people start working with laptops and they were able to use VPN connections to get access to systems in the office, primarily for email when they were off site. To start with these were senior managers, IT staff and some sales people, but over the last couple of years, the number has increased to include many others. We even have a couple of ladies from our customer support team that regularly go out to visit partner companies that they work with, and they take a ?pool? laptop with them.
As you?ll realise, having access to email, CRM & ERP systems along with data files is pretty important for many of these staff and it helps them do their job far more efficiently. However, although the process to connect the VPN is really easy, some of them still occasionally have difficulties in making the VPN connections and we have been looking to see if there is a way to make their life easier.
One thing that was discussed in the Microsoft ?Jump Start? sessions a few weeks ago was the concept of a ?Hybrid? cloud; one that used both public and private cloud options linked together. In the session, there was a discussion about linking Office365 using LDAP to connect to an existing Exchange Server inside of a company?s LAN. Effectively, this would extend the mail function to allow Active Directory designated people when outside of the network to use Office365, and staff inside to use the normal Exchange Server; but the two linked together effectively as a single system and without the need for VPN connections.
I think that this could be a major benefit for us; it would make life easier for all staff that travel, as they would have access to their email without having to worry about running VPN connections. They could use their laptops, their smart phones, tablets or even a PC from the people that they are visiting to get access to their mail and other material.
As for staff inside of the business, they would continue to use the existing Exchange mailboxes; but they would still see the travelling staff as being on the same system. It might even be an option for some of the staff internally to use a tablet moving around inside of the factory; although I?m not sure that these devices are quite robust enough for some of the heavy handed individuals we employ!
Of course, there are security issues, but that is for a discussion another time. I feel that the hybrid option would make a lot of sense for us; it would provide a sensible and elegant solution to a problem that has caused a few issues and will only get more serious as time goes by. I think that Office365 is a product that deserves some serious consideration and could provide a real option for our travelling staff; and it might be a real advantage to the business.