How Small Businesses can Benefit from Big Business Software Today


Many businesses that have adopted Microsoft Office 365 to date have been medium and large businesses, government agencies, and universities, all of whom could afford their own servers on-site but chose the new cloud model. The market segment that really could benefit most from cloud computing and Office 365 in particular are very small businesses and professional practices. Businesses with under five employees would have no way to budget an in-house implementation of the same software.

Costs and Logistics for Re-Creating Office 365 Software and Services in Your Business

In order to illustrate why very small businesses never get enterprise grade collaboration software, it helps to understand the logistics and costs for setting up your own private server services to equal what Microsoft can get you for $20 per user per month for Office 365 and $44 per month for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, They would need to have a minimum of four physical servers housed in their business at a cost of $25,000, and they would have to buy about $50,000 in software licenses. They would then need at least one systems engineer available full-time for around $150,000 a year including salary and fringe benefits. After that, power costs upwards of $10,000 to run the servers as well as the climate control they need. Even with expenses of $235,000 for the first year, they would have limited reliability compared to the 99.9% offered by Office 365. Licensing of Microsoft Office either individually or as an organization-wide agreement for volume software licensing with Microsoft. Either way, Office will cost around $300 per employee for each new version every three years or so. They would endure the expense of the systems engineer, but they could not equal the 24/7/365 service that Microsoft has, unless they could triple their IT budget to $450,000 per year for three shifts of eight hours. In order to have co-located servers in different regions of the World so that no regional disaster anywhere will disrupt your access to software and your data and the costs go into the millions. Even with all of that, you would not have the same level of support. With all of this complexity all recently available, the Microsoft Customer Support are key players in ensuring every problem gets solved in the best way possible. With a Microsoft Consultant, you will never be calling Microsoft but you will notice that all problems are solved promptly. Microsoft wants their distributors to succeed and they help us stick to tested methods for dealing with issues. It would be difficult with a large budget to accomplish these things, and for a very small business or professional practice, this complexity is out of the question. What this all adds up to is that if the Cloud is saving money for large organizations, the Cloud could be invaluable to very small businesses, giving them enterprise capabilities that they would otherwise never see. Most small businesses have not yet discovered this potential advantage for themselves.

Why Would a Very Small Business Consider Enterprise Software?

Whenever you have an organization involving more than one person, there is automatically an information disparity unless there are ways to prevent it:

  • Shared Intranet for Documents and Information (SharePoint Server) Including Version Management and Permissions.

  • Customer Relationship Management Software with custom forms and reporting (Microsoft Dynamics CRM) to suit your business.

  • Enterprise Class E-Mail (Microsoft Exchange) with legally compliant archiving.

These high costs of all of the software, hardware, and assistance you would have to pay for to get these services for your business are nothing new to the Fortune 500 businesses reading this. Their users are used to the latest and best software from Microsoft, and they know how to take advantage of these services. If it makes financial sense for these larger businesses to adopt cloud computing, it makes even more sense for very small businesses and professional offices. Many of our clients have told us at first that they did not need enterprise software, but the reason that they said this is that they have never had the chance to experience the increased efficiency and collaboration made possible by enterprise collaboration software. Offices that we have equipped fully with both Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics CRM have gotten the full effect of the business transformation that can be achieved. The reason that large businesses insist on having collaboration software and CRM is that they need information to be available at the fingertips of those who need it without delay. Sometimes that information is company policies or finances, but the most mundane use for CRM is the most commonly reported occurrence. The first thing we hear from CRM customers is what happens every day when a customer calls and has to speak to someone other than the representative assisting them. This scenario is common to all organizations both for profit and not for profit and spans all sizes from a two-person partnership up to governments. People develop a better relationship with an organization, giving more trust and cooperation, when they can get a consistent message and level of knowledge about their circumstances from anyone assisting them at the time. It shows to the consumer, patient, client, or patron that the organization values them enough to be organized and consistent. The second thing customers notice is that all of the reports and common tasks related to leads, marketing, follow-up, invoice printing, faxing, and E-Mailing, and reports that they are used to can be added.

Our development method for all businesses mirrors the technologies and techniques employed by the best consultants: a gradual change in an organization by re-engineering business processes into a more collaborative, information-driven atmosphere where an organization can develop consistent practices for addressing any common event. Once the existing business process is defined after interviewing all relevant employees, a graphical flowchart is made of the existing business processes that comprise the day-to-day operation of your business including all information flowing in or out. These processes and their outputs and the philosophy of how the work is done is highly developed for each organization based on their education and their experience running the organization. We do not change the processes in any way but we add flexibility to how the data is entered. Redundant collecting of information can be eliminated. All employees are originally using desktop applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher to make all their presentations, invoices, customer communications, reports, lists, and other business records. With Dynamics CRM, the capability exists to carefully add all of these document creation needs, so that they are all reports available to the people who need them. Your employees can spend more time interacting with your customers rather than repeating redundant work. Your clients will see a more sophisticated organization with a very consistent message and their trust and reliance can increase. Once the business process is more efficient after all of this re-engineering, a new graphical flow-chart is made which always shows all of the same functions being accomplished with fewer intersecting lines. What is visually simpler is also more efficient. Management can have an immediate handle on what is going on at every level of their organization to make more important decision. Employees can get more work done because they waste less time.

Using Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is Low Maintenance

After an implementation process that involves customizing the software for your business needs and showing your employees how to streamline the work they do using the new software and share information better than before, there is very little you will need a consultant for. The need for a computer consultant is experienced by every business, but it is not practical or cost-efficient for organizations with less than twenty employees to have their own engineer on staff. Even if one does have an engineer on-staff, the engineer that traditionally oversees the servers in a business is not specialized in helping organizations harness the computing power for business. Having consultants prepared by Microsoft means a quick and easy transition, where all of your employees’ needs for customization and education are seen to. Once your employees know how to use the software, Microsoft does the rest by making sure that you have a minimum of 99.9% uptime, a standard that has rarely ever been reached before Office 365. Times when the software does not work costs businesses money for lost business, dissatisfied customers, bored employees who cannot work and are left apologizing that, “The system is down, please try again in tomorrow”. Once all of your employees are satisfied with the results, there is no need for any consultant until you need something new, such as a new report, invoice design or E-Mail template is necessary.

What About New Software Versions

With Cloud Computing from Microsoft, your business never needs to worry about software licensing and installing new versions again. The Cloud versions of all software from Microsoft Office Desktop software available with the premium plans to Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint are always the latest version. You will never need to incur expenses for new versions again. If one wants to fully take advantage of this, an organization can get Windows Intune cloud service for endpoint protection and access to the very latest Enterprise version of Windows. Windows Enterprise has been around for several versions of Windows and offers the best configuration for the workplace, including encryption options. Windows Intune offers virus and malware protection with live monitoring. Updates to Windows can be centrally delegated by a consultant to manage a dozen computers or more in less than ten minutes a week. The software also allows more complex problems to be solved by enabling your employees to give access to their desktops to a remote technician. Services like ours at the Web and I charge by the minute, and since we perform these tasks in our own office, there is no travel involved and the costs are far less. Other consultants offer similar flexible charging. Small businesses benefit from always having the latest software, never paying for upgrades, and reducing computer consulting fees to the bare minimum.

We Already Pay Too Much for Computing Help Now

With Windows Intune, Office 365, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, your office experiences far fewer outages due to systems being down than was ever possible before. The best part is that you need less from your consultants. Your consultants will help you save by offering you only what you need. We are now have financial incentives from Microsoft to do so.

Microsoft has changed their pricing model to reward consultants for ongoing customers for Cloud Services. Now partners not only make money from assisting you, they make the most money if they can serve you well and in the constraints of your budget so that you remain long-term customers. This results in better service and minimal service time. Windows Intune is most important in this process because it is so easy to prevent all infections and most software related crashes remotely and quickly. Paying for ten minutes of time for service without travel is so much less expensive than the four hours per week it takes to maintain 15 computers in an office on-site every week that it saves many businesses enough to pay a good portion of their Cloud Service fees. The rest is more than recouped by not paying for employees to sit idle while your systems are down or their workstations are not functioning.

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