AT&T rolls out cloud-based Microsoft Office

Seeking to beef up its products and services for small and midsize businesses, AT&T Monday announced that it will offer Microsoft Office 365 as a cloud-based service.

AT&T is making the software as a service (SaaS) available for its 300,000 small-business customers, providing mobile and desktop access to popular Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the Lync instant messaging platform.

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Mike Sapien, a principal analyst with Ovum, says the news makes a lot of sense for AT&T. "It's a big play to have a really popular packaged app they can deliver to the SMB market," he says. "They're really putting something out there that businesses actually need."

Buying a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office from a vendor like AT&T has a number of potential advantages for users, Sapien points out. A cloud model frees users from having to dedicate on-premise resources to hosting the application, while allowing the programs to be accessed across a range of devices, including mobile platforms on the AT&T network.

The offering also comes with Tech Support 360, AT&T's support program for helping customers set up, migrate and service the software.

Cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 from AT&T starts at $6 per user per month and is broken into two tiers: one for businesses with between one and 25 users, and another for an unlimited number of users. In addition to purchasing the bundle, customers have a choice to purchase some apps as a stand-alone product, including Exchange email, Lync and SharePoint.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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