In case you missed it, last week Microsoft’s Office 365 – Office in the cloud - went live in 40 markets after six months as a beta version. Office 365 includes Office, SharePoint Online (collaboration software), Exchange Online (email) and Lync Online (unified communications) in a cloud service available through a monthly subscription.
At the launch more than 20 service providers worldwide announced that they will sell Office 365 with their own services for small and midsize businesses. Among others, Bell Canada, Intuit, NTT Communications, Telefonica, Telstra and Vodafone all plan to offer the service to their customers this year.
Office 365 is apparently available in a range of service plans for businesses of all sizes with monthly prices range from $2 to $27 per user per month. While the Office products are at the heart of the cloud service the connect to Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync means they also offer communication and collaboration.
There’s lots of discussion about whether cloud computing in general is any greener than in-house solutions and the answer is that it depends on who’s providing it. Large IT companies tend to have more modern, energy efficient data centres than are available to in-house operations.
In the case of Microsoft, the company produced some research on the subject, which I reported on here.
The bottom line from the research was that, for large deployments, Microsoft’s cloud solutions (Exchange, SharePoint and Dynamics CRM were the examples tested) can reduce energy use and carbon emissions by more than 30%. For small deployments, energy use and emissions can be reduced by more than 90%.
The report, called Cloud Computing and Sustainability: The Environmental Benefits of Moving to the Cloud, pointed out the various factors that make cloud computing more energy efficient and ended with the comment; “Note that, because Microsoft applications and data centres were the basis of the study, the specific carbon reductions from running other applications from other software providers on a cloud model may vary. However, the trends shown here are instructive and may be used as directional indicators for decision makers in corporate IT and sustainability leadership positions when considering a switch to cloud computing with any provider”.
So reducing carbon emissions could be a justification for using cloud services from Microsoft (or another provider), but then there are also considerations of security, availability, etc. to take into consideration