There has been much buzz lately in the internet world due to Microsoft's recent announcement of a new suite of software hosted entirely in the cloud. Yes, that's right, Microsoft 365 will be hosted in the cloud; it combines the latest version of Office, 2010, with their cloud-based services to improve collaboration for businesses increasingly spread across the globe.
First, an explanation of "the cloud", in case you're unsure of what the term means. The cloud is basically just the internet; if something is hosted in the cloud, it means it's hosted through the internet rather than locally on your own hard drive. It's still stored somewhere, but in a location you'll probably never see. Hosting data in the cloud has a number of advantages. It's generally cheaper than purchasing your own hardware and maintaining it yourself. If you then choose to store your data locally as well as remotely, you have a backup which can withstand any accidents that then happen to hit your own office.
The main benefit of cloud computing, however, is from-anywhere access. With your own login, you can generally access data from absolutely anywhere in the world. Placing your data in the cloud means that you don't have to worry about having your own computer if you need access to your information. You may choose to find a secure location to access it from, but when you do, it will be easily done.
One of the key flagship points of using Microsoft Office 365 is that of increased collaboration. Obviously, their main competitor, Google Docs, proudly broadcast this as one of the benefits of their own service. You can see what others are editing and writing and work on it yourself, real-time, making it easy for large numbers of people to collaborate and check a document without creating multiple versions of it, which can easily be lost or confused with one another. When you're finished, you can then take your document over to Office 2010 and make the final, more advanced edits which the software offers. Microsoft now offers this same service for all of their Office suite. With pay-as-you-go services, you're easily able to add on services and employees as you need them, rather than paying for unnecessary services regularly.
Microsoft 365 also has more potential for sharing. Outlook 2010 hooks right into different social networks, and it's easier than ever to share slideshows with PowerPoint Broadcast Slide Show. You'll never be out of contact when you need to work again. Plus, the apps work with phones - not just the upcoming Windows Phone 7 but iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerries. Not much could be better for long distance collaboration than the ability to view documents on your phone; you need never again worry that you've forgotten something important just before or during a meeting, as the information will constantly be at your fingertips.
Truly the only question remaining is whether or not using the cloud to store and edit documents will take off. If it does, Microsoft have positioned themselves well to take advantage of the trend when it arises.
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