I was invited to the media launch of Microsoft Office365 on Wednesday to get a taste of the Microsoft cloud offering for its Office applications.

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Microsoft had four customers to present their experience of using Office365. Most of them liked the familiarity of the Microsoft Office interface without having the complexity of hardware configuration or software download. All they needed to do was to get onto a browser and you are Office ready.

Using Office on the cloud makes good economic sense especially if you do not have an IT team as a department.  Leave the IT to Microsoft and focus on the real work in the office.

I remember working in a PR agency where they had their own servers to handle the mail exchange and data storage. However, the problem was that once the server goes down, there wasn’t anybody really trained to pinpoint the problem and find the solution.

The reset button may come in handy in this case but sometimes it work, sometimes it didn’t. The outsourced IT team could only come the next day. So downtime on your own servers isn’t a good idea.

There are small companies that I know that somehow seem cool to have a server in the office but that is so 1990s.  I am not surprised if the servers were also bought in the 1990s.

What about Office365 itself? Being an long time user of Google Docs, working on the cloud and collaboration isn’t really fascinating to me.

However, if you are one of those basic users of Microsoft Office who usually complain why you are paying hundred of dollars when you only use like 5% of its features, Office365 is reasonably priced. Companies with less than 20 employees can start off with a USD6 per month per account subscription.

For advance users, Office365 might lack some features that you might have to use your desktop version first before uploading it to collaborate with your colleagues.

For example, pivot table is not available on the Office365.com version of Excel.  Though I have read it is possible to do a pivot table table on your desktop version and it gets updated on the Office365.com.

One feature that I find Office365 lacking is the availability to edit attached documents immediately from Outlook to Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint.

For example, when you received an attached Word Document via Office365.com Outlook, you can click to view the full document online, but there is no edit button for you to edit it on Office365.com Word. You need to download the document and upload it back to Office365.com.

Quite a hassle when you compare this with Google Docs. When you receive a Word attachment, you can view if off the browser. There’s an edit button where you can click and start with the changes immediately on the browser. Pressing the edit button automatically stores the doc into Google Docs.

If you rather stick to familiar ground of using Office, Office365.com is your choice to work on the cloud and enjoy the benefits of being on the cloud.

However, if you are looking for something more advance, it is better to stick to the desktop version or consider other cloud apps.

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