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1/19/2012
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Microsoft Office 365's New Enterprise Fans

JetBlue, Patagonia, and American Heart Association move to Microsoft's cloud-based productivity suite, as Redmond does battle with rival Google Apps.

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Microsoft has revealed a number of high-profile customer wins for its fledgling Office 365 online productivity suite.

Moving to Office 365 are airline JetBlue, outdoor clothing designer Patagonia, and the American Heart Association. "Each customer is unique, different in size, mission, and industry, yet all have a common technology mission--to foster greater collaboration and communication, enhance productivity, and realize the efficiencies associated with the cloud," said Microsoft, in a statement.

Launched last June, Office 365 features cloud-based versions of familiar Microsoft productivity and communications tools. It includes access to Office Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Office Web Apps. It will also gain direct integration with Skype, which Microsoft acquired last year for $8.5 billion.

[ Considering the cloud? Don't make a move before reading Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns. ]

Plans start at $6 per user, per month, making the offering competitive with Google's Google Apps service, which offers online e-mail, productivity apps, and calendaring starting at $5 per user, per month.

Though the service is mostly popular with small businesses, Microsoft has previously said a number of large enterprises, including Campbell Soup Company and publisher Group Marie-Claire, have also adopted it within their organizations.

American Heart Association, which maintains two data centers in the Dallas area, is moving to Microsoft's cloud solutions primarily to save money, said AHA CIO Michael Wilson. "The total cost of ownership is significantly cheaper," said Wilson, in an interview.

Wilson estimates that Office 365 will reduce his organization's email and collaboration costs by as much as 50% annually, compared to operating Exchange servers internally. Patagonia officials said their company expects to save $300,000 on future upgrades by moving to Microsoft's cloud, and shave $15,000 off annual operating costs.

Beyond the cost savings, Wilson sees other advantages in moving to the cloud. "The ability not to have to upgrade to take advantage of new functions is huge," he said. "And we get a radical upgrade in storage space." AHA's plan gives each of the company's 3,000 employees 25 GB of storage space.

In addition to Outlook and Lync for email and collaboration, AHA will eventually adopt Office 365's cloud-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The organization is also ditching Oracle's Siebel CRM tools in favor of Microsoft Dynamics. "We're going strictly cloud," said Wilson.

Wilson said American Heart Association took a long look at Google Apps before deciding to go with Office 365. Ultimately he wasn't comfortable with the search giant's privacy assurances. "Google changes their privacy agreements for a lot of different reasons, just like Facebook. Some of them appear to be commercially oriented, and that concerned us," he said.

Still, a number of organizations, including the Wisconsin public school system, the Energy Department's Idaho National Laboratory, and the General Services Administration, have found Google Apps sufficiently secure to adopt the platform in recent months.

Google claims millions of users for Google Apps. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to specify how many organizations are running Office 365, but said the service "is on track to be one of the fastest growing business offers in Microsoft history."

Ready to catch the Metro? Windows 8 is a major shift, with features borrowed from desktop gadgets and mobile devices, and it brings a slew of new paradigms for developers. Our report, IT Pro Impact: Windows Developer Road Map, shows you what you need to know. (Free registration required.)

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