Microsoft's operating system may be the primary engine in most businesses, but there is a world outside Windows. Microsoft offers an array of services that address some of the most common headaches small businesses face and enable them to operate like much bigger organisations. Here are five of the gems.
1. Office 365
You can buy Office 365 Small Business Premium for only $150 per user per year. That's less than the cost of a single Office 2013 Professional license, but it allows you to install the full Office 2013 Professional suite on up to five devices—including iPhones and Android smartphones.
But Office 365 is more than Microsoft Office in the cloud. Office 365 Small Business Premium also includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, which give you a complete business infrastructure without the cost and overhead of buying and maintaining your own servers. Plus, Microsoft manages the server back-end. It's like getting an IT department thrown in for free.
2. Power BI
Data is power. Power BI, Microsoft's business intelligence service, lets you analyze and leverage data through a tool most businesses are already comfortable with—Excel. You can create analytical models, build interactive visualizations, and more.
You can also share insights with other team members, track who is accessing what data, and see which data sets are used most. Power BI is included in an Office 365 subscription.
3. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials
Many businesses are too small to have a dedicated IT department and lack the skills and resources required to manage Windows Servers. The Catch-22 for these businesses, though, is that their needs exceed the capabilities of the Windows desktop OS as well.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials provides an affordable, simple server option for businesses with 25 to 50 users. It's a stepping stone that takes your business from a random group of separate Windows PCs, to a more capable business network. Instead of having individual users back up their own PCs (which is likely a pipe dream anyway), Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials can automatically back up client computers to a central location—a lifesaver in the event that a laptop with crucial information is lost or stolen. You can also easily restore entire PCs or specific files or folders as needed.
You can use Remote Web Access to connect with company data and resources over an encrypted connection from virtually anywhere. The Remote Web Access interface is designed to be a touch-friendly experience, allowing users to connect from any Web-enabled device.
Using Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials gives your business the ability to manage and protect data, implement and enforce policies on endpoint PCs, and more, without requiring a full-time IT administrator or Windows Server guru to run it.
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