Lync Online is Microsoft’s communication tool for small businesses, offering a lot of features that Skype, AIM and Google Chat already utilize with instant messaging, video calls and the ability to host online meetings.
You’ll be able to share documents via a virtual white board a la Google Wave (remember that?), and small businesses will be able to control the level of permissions they grant their employees. Could be useful, especially if you want to keep employee instant messaging in-company only.
Pricing and Conclusions
Microsoft is charging $6 per month per user for small businesses of 25 employees or less. Larger businesses can choose premium plans that range from $10 to $27 per month per user with more features offered as you go up the ladder. They’re promising 99.9% uptime for their servers, and will offer customer support – another incentive to make the switch from Google Docs, where customer service isn’t exactly Google’s strong point.
It all distills down to whether businesses will be willing to pay for streamlined productivity (and there are some that will), or if they’d rather deal with small inconveniences to do something they can do for free. Sure, more steps are necessary to convert your Microsoft Office documents for use with Google Docs, but that requires little more than a copy+paste most of the time. For new start ups, $6 per employee is inexpensive and could be an attractive option if you’re just getting your business off the ground.
But if your business already uses a lot of Google’s free services, the cost of uprooting your files coupled with a small learning curve might be enough of a deterrent to stay put. Otherwise, Office 365 is off to a promising start with attractive pricing options and more than enough functionality to get the job done.