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Ultimate Guide to Microsoft 365

Ultimate Guide to Microsoft 365

Posted by ASCEND TECHNICAL TEAM on 9/30/21 9:05 AM

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It’s easy to fall behind on your organization’s technology, and the marketplace usually isn’t very forgiving. While your hardware ages, the technology you need to support your customers and maintain a productive workforce keeps advancing. Ultimately, you end up with computers and tech that can’t meet the demands of the newest applications, limiting your efficiency and potentially leading to unhappy customers.

To solve this problem, many small businesses are turning to Microsoft 365. Finding a powerful, robust solution that doesn’t disrupt your business’s current workflow is a challenge, but for many organizations, Microsoft’s offering fits the bill.
Microsoft 365 can help your business:

  • Enhance communication
  • Easily manage remote work
  • Get immediate access to the latest versions of Microsoft programs
  • Protect your organization’s information
  • Cut costs

In this guide, we’ll take a deep look at what you can expect to get out of a Microsoft 365 subscription, how it can help you grow your business, and what next steps you should take if you’re interested in making the switch.


Learn more about Microsoft 365 with our Ultimate Guide. Download Now.

What Exactly is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based suite of popular applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint combined with Microsoft’s existing online services (such as OneDrive and SharePoint) and security tools — all within a single subscription.
Microsoft applications are incredibly useful, but they can take a toll on your computers and IT team. Many small businesses can’t afford to consistently update their hardware to meet the demands of the desktop versions of these apps, which can bring work to a crawl due to their size.

See for Yourself


This demo of Microsoft 365 for business gives a good glimpse of what you can expect with your package.

In addition, many organizations are using obsolete operating systems that aren’t compatible with the newest versions of Microsoft’s applications. But with Microsoft 365, the included apps work with older operating systems, easing the burden placed on your computer.
Microsoft 365 comes with the full suite of web applications, but it also offers much more.

Your organization will receive access to:

  • SharePoint Online, used for document sharing
  • Hosted email, which eliminates the need to manage an in-house Exchange server
  • Access email, calendars, and contacts from up to five devices per user, with 50GB of mailbox storage, Skype for Business, which is useful for voice and video calls, web conferencing, instant messaging, and more
  • Yammer - Microsoft’s social networking platform, useful for collaborating and sharing information with employees and volunteers
  • Anti-malware, anti-spam, and data protection24/7 support

Plus, this all comes with a full terabyte of storage for each user.

Now, let’s take a look at some more specific benefits you can expect from your Microsoft 365 purchase.


Easy Access Applications

Have you ever waited a few years to update your software until your organization’s OS is no longer compatible with most services?

Suddenly having to jump forward several generations of software can be difficult for your employees and cause you to make drastic adjustments to the way you do business, leading to a drop in productivity and potentially costly downtime.

One of the top benefits of a Microsoft 365 account is that you have access to the newest Microsoft applications, but you don’t have to worry about them slowing down your hardware.

Through Microsoft 365, you’ll have immediate access to the newest versions of Word, PowerPoint, and more. Providing your workforce with these updated tools will allow them to take advantage of the newest functionalities in each app, getting them quickly up to speed on new technology.

Having a forward-facing organization like this offers benefits that extend far beyond each app’s immediate returns as well.



Remote Work & Collaboration

More and more businesses are increasingly seeing the benefits of remote work, and Microsoft 365 is here to make remote work as simple as possible.

Advances in networking and mobile technologies have enabled employees to do work outside the confines of the office. Companies are embracing this trend, with one study finding up to 63% of company respondents allowing remote work.

Remote Work Statistics to Know

    • 86% of employees prefer to work alone
    • Two-thirds of managers say remote workers increase their overall productivity
    • 82% of remote employees report reduced stress levels
    • Workplaces that allow remote work have drastically cut costs on real estate

Even if you don’t offer full remote work, being able to access your work from any device can be extremely beneficial.

Working on an important PowerPoint presentation to a potential client, only to realize the night before that you need to make last-minute changes — and you left your laptop at the office? With Microsoft 365, you’ll be able to log into your company’s secure portal, access that presentation, and make edits easily.

Microsoft 365 also comes with tools that allow teams or departments to coordinate and monitor work, increasing efficiency and production easily. For example, a centralized planner can track all your team’s work, while team members will be able to leave comments on Word docs simultaneously.

Since all your work will be in the cloud, you won’t have to worry about dealing with costly downtime from your server going down or suffering an on-sight data loss.



Built-in Security

Sending your sensitive data to the cloud, seemingly out of your control, can be a nerve-wracking decision. Who hasn’t heard stories about major data breaches or employees improperly storing information on their personal devices?

Small businesses are often too lax about cybersecurity, but Microsoft provides tools that help you and your IT team create and manage a strong culture of cybersecurity.

Microsoft takes a defense-in-depth approach to security, which means they provide physical, logical, and data layers of security features and operational best practices.

Furthermore, your Microsoft 365 subscription comes with built-in security functions, including:

Message Encryption 

Microsoft 365 offers flexible out-of-the-box encryption policies like “Encrypt Only” and “Do Not Forward”, allowing you to protect sensitive information.

Rights Management Services 

You’ll be able to restrict access to documents and email to specific people, preventing anyone else from viewing or editing them — even if they are sent outside the organization.

Multi-Factor Authentication

With an enhanced login process (which at higher levels of Microsoft 365 subscriptions can be customized to your organization), you’ll be able to increase your security drastically.

Mobile Device Management

We previously mentioned the benefits of working remotely, but what happens if a user’s device with access to your 365 account gets misplaced or stolen? With this feature, you can control the level of access individual devices have to your account and information, allowing you to fix this issue easily.

Of course, since Microsoft 365 is primarily a cloud-based service, you have to be able to trust your provider’s dedication to security.

Here’s what Microsoft has to say about their own Microsoft 365 security best practices:

  • We restrict physical data center access to authorized personnel. We have implemented multiple layers of physical security, such as biometric readers, motion sensors, 24-hour secured access, video camera surveillance, and security breach alarms.
  • We enable encryption of data both at rest and via the network as it is transmitted between a data center and a user.
  • We don't mine or access your data for advertising purposes.
  • We use customer data only to provide the service; we don't otherwise look in your mailbox without your permission.
  • We regularly back up your data.
  • We won't delete all the data in your account at the end of your service term until you have had time to take advantage of the data portability that we offer.
  • We host your customer data in-region.
  • We enforce "hard" passwords to increase the security of your data.
  • We allow you to turn off and on privacy-impacting features to meet your needs.

    While you can’t rely on only your software provider to keep your organization safe, it’s clear that Microsoft takes your data protection and security extremely seriously. 

  • We contractually commit to the promises made here with the data processing terms in your volume licensing agreement. For more information, visit the Independently verified section of the Microsoft 365 Trust Center.

While you can’t rely on only your software provider to keep your organization safe, it’s clear that Microsoft takes your data protection and security extremely seriously. 



Your Expected Cost Savings

To fully understand just how much you’ll be saving with Microsoft 365, let’s take a look at the costs associated with the traditional model of owning your software and related hardware.

When you own the IT infrastructure supporting your applications, you’re going to run into many costs. The costs for owning an Exchange server alone can be staggering and include:

The Exchange server itself
Cost of the hardware to run the server (server, disk, RAID, power, heating, cooling, backup)
Installing and configuring the server
Cost of security (SSL certificates)
Cost of maintaining and updating the hardware and operating system
Cost of downtime for any hardware or Internet failures
And that’s all just for one application.

Microsoft 365 covers all of those concerns: the license is free, the server and security concerns are left to Microsoft, and the risk of downtime is significantly reduced.

If your Internet goes down, you won’t have access to the cloud services — but even without Microsoft 365, you’d have the same problem.

But don’t just take our word for it.

A study conducted by Forrester Consulting into the potential return on investment (ROI) for organizations with one to 250 users came back with some truly impressive figures.

The study interviewed SMBs that have switched to Microsoft 365 several years prior and found that after three years of use, these businesses saved:

  • $89,789 on technology costs like hardware, software, and IT labor
  • $76,098 in worker efficiency due to mobile access
  • $4,929 in lowering compliance costs

Altogether, these figures result in a net overall ROI of 154%.

Your expected cost works out to:

$20 per user per month for the Business Premium subscription, which includes full access to Office applications, public cloud storage, collaboration services, the Microsoft business applications, device management, and single security to protect data across devices and aid against malware viruses, and spyware.

Big difference, right?


Learn more about Microsoft 365 with our Ultimate Guide. Download Now.


Next Steps

If it sounds like Microsoft 365 might be right for your business, then your next step should be finding a partner who can ensure that your move to Microsoft 365 is properly executed.

Without sufficient planning, your business runs the risk of suffering data loss or costly downtime during the move.

As a Gold Microsoft Partner, we here at Ascend Technologies have overseen many Microsoft 365 migrations. We’ll be able to help you:

  • Pick the Microsoft 365 subscription that is right for your business
  • Oversee your migration
  • Secure your network
  • Be on call for any needs you might have

And if we think Microsoft 365 isn’t the right fit for you, then we’ll find the solution best tailored to your organization’s needs.

With Ascend Technologies, you get:

Expertise You Can Trust
From helping you select the right subscription for your needs to overseeing migration and deployment, our expert technicians can ensure your business is up and ready to run with your Microsoft 365 package from day one.
Microsoft Partners
Our Microsoft Gold Partner status means that we stay up-to-date about the newest Microsoft 365 enhancements — information that will allow your organization to take advantage of new software before your competitors.
Solutions When You Need Them
Our team is here to help you maximize your investment in Microsoft 365. Reach out to us at any time for assistance with tools, further integrations, or subscription changes if needed.

Microsoft Gold  Partner

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Posted in Microsoft, Cloud & Infrastructure