All the Microsoft buzz has in recent days been about the naming of new CEO Satyah Nadella, only the third person to hold that office in the company’s storied history. We think that’s going to be good news for the community of Office 365 and Microsoft cloud customers; before he was promoted, Nadella headed the company’s cloud business. So Microsoft will likely continue its focus on cloud-based services.
So amid all that press, you might have missed several product announcements, and we thought it would be good to recap them here and talk about the impact they’re likely to have.
SkyDrive gets a new name
This first one is perhaps the simplest. Microsoft is changing the name of its SkyDrive cloud storage services to OneDrive (for personal accounts) and to OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) in the near future – no specific date has been announced for the changeover as of this writing. The reasons for the change is simple: The company lost a trademark dispute over the name and is required to change it. It’s too bad Microsoft didn’t take the opportunity to make the difference between the two services more clear; Based on our experience with SkyDrive, we think everyone’s going to refer to the service as OneDrive, further clouding the issue.
Users will see no impact as a result of the change, according to a very brief Microsoft announcement that included no details. You should be able to continue to use the cloud drives as always have; Microsoft promises that documents and images will be secure. The announcement hinted at improvements that will come with the new OneDrives, but did not specify what those changes might be.
Extended Support for older systems to end soon
Microsoft has announced that it will end its extended support for Windows XP, Exchange 2003 and Office 2003 on April 8. That support for Windows Server 2003 R2 will end on July 14.
Microsoft offers an upgrade price through volume licensing that allows Window XP Professional users to upgrade to Windows 7/8 Professional. There are no similar upgrade pricing plans for Exchange or Office.
Perhaps the most important reason to upgrade is that you’re likely missing out on many of the great new features that have been added over the recent generations of these products. Collaboration tools, the ability to access your information from just about anywhere through a multitude of newer devices, and the compatibility issues you may be encountering as employees increasingly demand BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) access to their work email, documents and other systems, and are reasons to consider a move. And it could be beneficial to do an upgrade that gets everyone on the same platform, if you’re currently running several different versions now. Less intuitively, but just as important, is the fact that people prefer to work with companies using the newest technologies.
What you should do
One of the biggest problems for companies facing this dilemma is the cost of upgrading both hardware and software. If you’re running older computers, they may not be powerful enough to meet the requirements of new software. There are multiple choices here. The main one is whether to upgrade legacy hardware, such as your Exchange servers, or consider moving to the cloud. The advantage of the cloud is that, instead of capital expenditures on new hardware, you’ll pay monthly fees for services online. Hardware maintenance becomes someone else’s problem. On the other side, outages and privacy concerns can leave you feeling a little … naked. It’s a lot to get used to.
With a service like Office 365, everyone will always be on the same platform. If you’re set in your ways, it’s important to know that Office 365 and the related services are changing frequently, and the plan is to keep it going. And tools such as Lync, SharePoint and social sharing can and likely will change the way you do business — for the better. You can try Office 365 for 90 days free by clicking here: Try Office365.
The demise of InfoPath
Microsoft announced in a January 31 blog post that InfoPath will cease to exist after the 2013 release. There’s a lot to talk about here. We’ll tackle that one in a separate post very soon.