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Catch the wave – Microsoft innovations drive greater organizational efficiencies


In an unprecedented wave of innovation, Microsoft® has launched over 15 new products in the last 18 months and has reestablished itself as a technology pioneer. A sign of how much Microsoft has embraced the cloud comes from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a recent shareholder letter. He referred to Microsoft as a “devices and services company.” Conspicuously missing is the word software which has strong non-cloud inferences of local installation and perpetual licensing.

Many companies have legacy infrastructure and systems that limit mobility, collaboration and flexibility. In fact, many companies today rely on “end of life” or soon to be “end of life” software products such as Windows® XP and Office® 2003. With this new wave of innovation from Microsoft and pending product discontinuation, it is a good time to evaluate cloud opportunities and upgrade technology to provide more capabilities and efficiency, all while potentially saving money and gaining a competitive advantage.

In the past, companies planned large IT refreshes in 3-5 year cycles, but with constant advances and new subscription models, that strategy has to change. Today, technology is more of an ongoing investment, with the company becoming more cost-effective and staying current or even ahead of competitors.

Grow your business with Microsoft productivity technologies

Productivity technologies refers to software and devices your employees use to perform daily work tasks. This is an area that has received a significant face-lift from Microsoft with the introduction of Windows 8, the new Office and Surface tablet devices.

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s touch-centric, tile-based operating system for tablets, PCs and phones. It is a complete redesign of its flagship operating system that now offers a consistent end user experience across any Windows device, enabling mobility capabilities and seamless data sharing across an organization. A new feature of Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows to Go, is a fully manageable, corporate image installed on a bootable certified USB drive.

This “Windows in your pocket” technology enables compelling mobility scenarios such as bring your own device (BYOD), work from home and disaster recovery. In addition to Windows to Go benefits, Windows 8 is twice as fast at boot up compared to Windows 7, contains significant security enhancements, and integrates with Microsoft’s SkyDrive® cloud service, allowing users to save data directly to the cloud,  making it immediately accessible by other mobile devices.

Windows XP SP3 officially reaches end of life in April 2014. Staying on discontinued software puts your business at risk with no new security updates, hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. Based on historical customer deployment data, the average deployment can take 18 months from business case through full implementation. To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to deploy before end of support.

Microsoft Office 2003 is also being phased out by Microsoft in April 2014 and replaced by Office 365® Pro Plus and Office 2013 editions. The former is Microsoft’s new subscription-based version of Office, which can be bundled with online versions of popular applications such as Exchange, Lync® and SharePoint® for a monthly fee starting at $12.50 per user per month for small businesses. With Office 365, your business will always be entitled to the latest version of Office to install on up to five PCs or Macs®, hosted email, anti-spyware, cloud file sharing, intranet sites for teams, web conferencing and instant messaging. This means that your business can stay current with key Microsoft products, focus IT staff on more important projects and count on a 99.9 percent financially backed uptime guarantee from Microsoft. In the last 24 months, RSM has successfully migrated over 25 businesses to Office 365.

Late last year, Microsoft unveiled its SurfaceTM tablets built on Windows 8. The Surface brings the power of Windows 8 to a portable, lightweight, touch-enabled device. While the Surface lacks the breadth of downloaded apps from the Microsoft store and currently only supports Wifi connectivity, the Pro version is considered by many to be a more business-friendly device than an iPad®. This is due to its ability to install business applications that are not available on the Apple or Microsoft Store and create a secure VPN connection to your datacenter. 

Many companies have difficulty managing the volume of their assets and systems, whether it’s tracking their location or installed software or level of compliance. Windows InTuneTM, Microsoft’s new cloud-based system and mobile device management tool gives your business real-time information on the assets that are deployed by your business. There is an additional benefit with your subscription, entitling you to the latest version of the operating system. This is an opportunity to make sure you don’t fall behind, without having to buy the latest version of the operating system every time you need it.

Improve efficiency with Microsoft collaboration and social computing

Microsoft has raised the level of collaborative abilities within its products, changing the way your employees interact. Microsoft YammerTM, a technology that Microsoft acquired last year for $1.2 billion, provides communication capabilities similar to Facebook, resembling a platform that most people are familiar with in their everyday lives. When it is implemented and adopted properly, it is an opportunity to collaborate more efficiently and significantly reduce email volume. Relevant information and content is delivered to employees who desire it, rather than emailing the entire company. RSM is heavily reliant on Yammer, as it is a primary communication method for over 6,000 users.

Microsoft Lync has added a new dimension to communication, enabling instant messaging, voice and video calls wherever a network connection exists on any device. SharePoint has also added depth and increased connectivity, allowing employees to share and organize information, and track projects from PCs, tablets and smartphones. SharePoint extends its collaborative capabilities even further when connected with Yammer. 

Improve business performance with Microsoft cloud OS technologies

Microsoft’s vision is to allow its customers to move to the cloud on their own terms. This means designing products that share common cloud characteristics such as elasticity resource pooling, measured services and self-service, but with flexible deployment scenarios.

Windows Server 2012 is a broad, scalable and elastic server platform that gives you the flexibility to build, deploy and manage applications and websites on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment, using a consistent set of tools and frameworks. Hyper-V®, Windows Server 2012’s built-in virtualization platform, has become a legitimate cost-effective alternative to VMware for small and medium sized businesses looking to implement desktop and server virtualization environments.

Windows AzureTM, Microsoft’s new public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering has also been picking up a lot of steam and is signing up 7,000 new customers per week. Azure is Microsoft’s equivalent of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, enabling businesses to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers.

Microsoft handles all the patches and maintenance—all in a secure environment with 99.95 percent uptime. This way you don’t need to invest large sums in setting up your infrastructure and you can free up the capital for more meaningful purposes. Azure Backup service can help you protect important server data offsite with automated backups to Windows Azure, where they are available for easy data restoration.

Obtain maximum value from licensing agreements and Microsoft Software Assurance

Microsoft licensing is very complex; many companies don’t license their products properly and as a result, they can fall out of compliance. Most importantly, by not understanding the licensing model, they are not getting optimal value out of their investment. The licensing has gotten more complicated as subscription-based licensing has joined the traditional perpetual model as options.

For example, in the past, companies bought perpetual Office licenses, and now that software can be bought as a subscription. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per year, the software can be purchased on a monthly basis, at a fraction of the cost. It entitles you to run Office on up to five PCs, so you have significant flexibility on how you buy it and where you operate it.

Several benefits are available within licensing agreements that companies may not be aware of. One that companies can take advantage of is Software Assurance vouchers where, Microsoft will pay qualified Microsoft partners to perform 1-15 day proof of concept engagements on products like SharePoint, Windows 8 and Office 365.

Technology innovation creates job satisfaction

When evaluating why employees choose to leave organizations, many of the reasons center on technology. If a company is behind the curve, and it is an inefficient place to work, it will be difficult to retain talented new hires. Your technology must stay current with well-integrated solutions. Employees are likely accustomed to using platforms similar to Yammer and Lync on a daily basis and want that technology integrated into their work.

The time is now to capitalize on innovation

Regardless of your industry, implementing and embracing modern technology is critical to increased efficiency, collaboration, effectiveness and even job satisfaction. The release of new Microsoft technology represents a tremendous opportunity to refresh your current platforms and applications, or further integrate your organization. If you take advantage of available offerings and licensing possibilities, your company will make better decisions and receive more value from your investments.

Be sure to check back for registration information on our upcoming webinar series about the wave of new Microsoft innovation.