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Microsoft Pushes in to the Cloud

I make it a point to stay abreast of some of the moving targets in the world of “cloud” computing – and some of you have been reading my posts about CRM solutions for the seminar event industry. One of the remarkably absent participants is Mi

crosoft. Perhaps it’s because we’ve known to just accept them as the “desktop” company that they don’t show up on a lot of radars – but I think that’s all going to change this year. Microsoft Office 365 LogoThere are two major pushes that Microsoft is making in to the cloud that I think are particularly worth noting. The first one is their new online version of their ultra-popular Office suite, called Office365 – which takes direct aim at Google’s increasingly pervasive Google Docs suite. What makes the Microsoft offering very unique (and personally, very attractive), is the fact that you can work not only online, but that you’ll also soon be able to buy Office on a per-user, monthly subscription basis; with updates rolling in automatically as they’re released. I think for the seminar industry – when most companies focus on keeping their staffing lean and need to be highly mobile – this is going to be a major advancement. Now you’ll be able to host your entire company on

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an internet-based office suite, as well as being able to download locally-run software at a pretty affordable rate (well, once it comes out of private Beta). Plans for small businesses will start as low as $6/user/month. The other interesting news article that I stumbled on is an announcement that the cloud-version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is officially coming out of Beta. Obviously, since I’m in the midst of writing a multi-part series on CRM options for the seminar industry, this piqued my interest immediately. Microsoft Dynamics LogoMicrosoft Dynamics has typically been extremely limited in the sense that it’s an installed CRM solution, not to mention that it’s typically been priced out of reach for the typical small, mobile business (like we find ourselves so frequently in the seminar and events industry). But now, with a hosted solution coming to market, suddenly MS Dynamics may be worth considering. From a features & benefits standpoint, MS Dynamics shares quite a bit with Salesforce.com. One of the main benefits of Salesforce right now is the investment they’ve made in their Chatter “social” tools – so if you’re willing to forgo those features; MS Dynamics may be a reasonable option. Just realize, that just like with Salesforce, MS Dynamics has a steep learning curve to get rolling and fully functional. However, the current price tag – $34/user/month (introductory rate) might be a helluva reason to consider Dynamics versus the similarly-featured Salesforce solution at $65/user/month. I’d suggest keeping an eye on

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the range of solutions Microsoft is bringing online this year. It seems like Redmond is finally catching on that we’re not tethered to our desks any more – and competition for Google and other “cloud” players will probably be a good thing for all of us!

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