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Office 365
What's Office 365?
Office 365 is several Microsoft collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and guaranteed up-time. There are different levels of subscription which reflect in different levels of access, but the subscriptions are paid on a per-user, per-month basis. It's made up of several major components (this information is from Microsoft):
 
Exchange Online

Exchange Online offers email, calendar and contacts designed to provide your business with the control you want and the security and reliability you need. With Exchange Online, you run your email on our globally-redundant servers, protected by built-in antivirus and anti-spam filters and unlimited, IT-level phone support 24 hours a day, seven days a week in your local language.

 
SharePoint Online

Keep teams in sync. SharePoint Online gives you a central place to share documents and information with colleagues and customers. Designed to work with familiar Office applications, it’s easy to save documents directly to SharePoint, and work together on proposals and projects in real-time because you have access to the documents and information you need from virtually anywhere.

 
Lync Online

Lync Online is a next-generation cloud communications service that connects people in new ways from anywhere by using presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling, and rich online meetings with audio, video, and web conferencing. Lync Online transforms interactions with colleagues, customers, and partners from today’s hit-or-miss communication to a more collaborative, engaging, and productive experience.

 
Lync Online

Office Web Apps are convenient online companions to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft OneNote that offer you an easy way to access, view, and edit documents directly from your web browser.

 

Why Office 365?
The railway recently identified that improved communication would be vital if it was to achieve certain core objectives over the next few years. In particular, there is a need to bring together in one IT system key personnel, some of which are paid and some volumteer, and provide them with advanced communication methods and acces to a single set of corporate resources. These people need to be able to access and work with the system from 'anywhere'.
A considerable amount of preparatory work has gone on over the last few years, and in particular over the last 12 months, in areas such as diaries and documentation, and we now need to be able to deliver these resources online (but subject to permissions).
After some preliminary work on SharePoint last winter, a project propsal was prepared earlier this year and presented to the Board.
The two main objectives of this project are 'to provide a real-time collaboration facility for key personnel, and to provide a method of communicating information to vounteers in general'.
 
If you want to learn more about Office 365, click here.
 
In my next article I'll tell you more about the project, and what it intends to deliver.
 
Bill Griffiths
October 2011