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Microsoft Offers FastTrack To Office 365 for SMEs

In a bid to attract more small and medium sized businesses to Office 365, Microsoft has announced new offers for SMEs to make the move to Office 365 easier.

In the Fast Lane

Microsoft’s FastTrack service, previously only available to Office 365 customers with 150 users or more, will now be available to customers with 50 to 149 Office 365 Enterprise and Small Business Plan users.

The FastTrack service provides resources and dedicated engineers to assist SMEs not just with the implementation of Office 365, but also staff familiarisation with the product and strategies to get the best business value from it. The service will be offered to Microsoft Partners working with small businesses too.

Microsoft is also expanding the FY16 Adoption Offer to include Office 365 Small Business Plans and adding payouts of $25 for customer deployments of 50–149 users. This means Microsoft Partners will be eligible for a payout of $25 per user for 50–149 users, in addition to the existing payouts they receive for 150 users and above.

So why the change? Because the 50 user mark is a meaningful milestone in the growth of a company and brings a need for strong IT solutions, says Bryan Goode, Senior Director of the Office 365 Modern Collaboration product marketing group. “We know that around 50 employees, a company tends to get their first full-time IT professional, and it becomes their really full-time job to make sure that the company’s IT infrastructure is stable, and robust, and basically fulfils the needs of the business.”

Squaring Up To Google

Microsoft’s blog post about the new offers was quick to point out that The Gartner Report, which analysed cloud email usage among public companies of different sizes, industries and locations in a comparison study of Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work, found that Microsoft ‘leads in all segments, and especially so among larger organizations.’

Matt Katzer, a Microsoft partner and principal of Kamind IT, claims there’s a good reason that companies choose Office 365 over Google for Work. “Companies tend to reach a breaking point with Google Apps around the 50-employee mark because it doesn’t provide the centralized management and security capabilities, nor the breadth of integrated collaboration tools, that Office 365 does,” he says. “Choosing the right solution early on can help businesses avoid the costs of integrating disparate systems or making a big change with their IT later on.”

Last year, Google offered Google for Work for free to Microsoft customers for the length of their contract. Currently, 60 million people use Office 365 at work and 50,000 SMEs become Office 365 customers every month. Will these new offers see these numbers increase, and customers flock from Google to Microsoft – or perhaps return to it?

“We think we’re making a very strong case for customers to switch over from Google Apps,” Goode says. “This isn’t about finding artificial ways to increase demand; that demand exists.”

It seems likely that Google will come up with a counter measure sometime soon, so let the battle recommence!

Kara Copple
An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.