Microsoft's latest Office 365 release still requires room for improvement if it wants to become the 'be all and end all' cloud business product, according to analyst firm Ovum.
It highlighted the lack of flexibility in Office 365’s functionality compared to other made-to-measure information management and collaboration infrastructures, emphasising that the solution is a “one-dot-zero” release and is still far from perfect. Microsoft Office 365 was recently launched in Australia aimed at SMBs and enterprises.
“Office 365’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness in that you can’t mess around with the software,” Ovum public sector research director, Kevin Noonan, said.
“If your organisation can’t stay away from tinkering with technical configurations, or if it has an out of control SOE, then this may not be the solution for you.”
Noonan said Office 365’s success largely depends on customers’ perception of its overall value, flexibility and stability.
“There are many hidden costs in maintaining a traditional configuration, and these need to be included in any true cost comparison,” Noonan added.
“If customers are looking for massive changes in simple unit price/performance, they may initially be disappointed.”
It has also been revealed, BPOS customers may have to wait a couple of months before migrating to the new Office 365, as the software giant is in the process of piloting the shift with select US-based customers. If it goes to plan, it will begin to broadly transition to Office 365 for BPOS customers in September, the company said.
A Microsoft spokesperson said that the intention to proceed with care when dealing with BPOS-to-Office 365 migrations isn't new and neither is the plan to have a pilot program following the product's general availability.
Despite these niggling issues, Ovum still sees Office 365 as a convenient, solid solution for small companies in maintaining their own standard operating environment with built-in compatibility and a high up-time guarantee in a fully maintained package.
For its part, Microsoft will release updates to Office 365 every 90 days, which should allow business and IT managers to regularly reassess whether it provides enough value for them to migrate across.
Looking at the bigger cloud picture, Noonan sees the release of Office 365 as another clear commitment by a major vendor to the cloud and its growing customer base.
“Cloud computing has indeed arrived and it is no longer reasonable to claim it as just hype,” Noonan said.
However, since vendor offerings still differ significantly and important change management issues remain, Noonan recommends that companies include cloud computing in their plans now and begin some tightly defined pilot projects in order to prepare for the future.