Not-for-profit organizations are often prime examples for how to help better the communities we call home. They champion a cause and put the betterment of others before the bottom line. With this selflessness, there comes the burden of making tough financial choices when determining how to best improve internal operations. Microsoft, along with many other providers (like the ones found on techsoup.org), can help make organizational improvements for non-profits more financially feasible.

The newest iteration of Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud suite, Enterprise E5 is now available at heavily discounted pricing for non-profits. Traditionally priced at $35 per user a month, E5 is now offered for qualifying organizations for $10 per user.

What does this mean for you?

If you are new to Office 365, this may be the perfect time to consolidate your infrastructure and streamline business processes. If you are already using the platform, it could be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the most robust offering Microsoft has to offer at an affordable price. While discounted prices are always easy on the eyes, what probably matters to you and your organization is what is provided in the E5 plan. Organizations are always looking for the return on investment, an area where the E5 plan excels (no pun intended). Below, I will highlight the components of the E5 plan that will help non-profits stay relevant and reach new levels of success in an ever-changing IT environment.

One of the largest differences for the E5 plan in comparison to other Office 365 plans is the added Voice over IP component. Through Skype for Business, you can ditch the clunky phone system you’ve had for a decade and move to a system that integrates directly with the applications you know and use daily, such as the Outlook email services. This cloud-based PBX system gives organizations the capability for voice calling and conferencing, video conferencing, screen sharing and instant messaging. It allows for both handset devices or soft clients and various headset options, providing flexibility to your employees. If an organization wants to host a webinar or similar hosted online meeting for a large audience, Skype for Business supports conferences of up to 10,000 attendees. Hopefully everyone doesn’t try to talk at once.

Included in the VoIP component of the E5 plan is hosted voicemail and included support. Voicemail is then integrated and stored within each user’s Outlook mailbox, with voice-to-text emails sent to the inbox as an additional way for voicemails to be received. While you may find a few comical typos within the voice-to-text translation, it provides an easy way to check in on important missed calls remotely from a variety of mobile devices if you are unable to listen to messages in a traditional fashion.

Other key features of Office 365 included in the E5 plan cater to the new age of the mobile workforce. Before, an off-site employee would have to use a VPN connection or Remote Access software to access, edit or collaborate on files and documents contained within the network. Now, with single sign-on for Office 365 users, remote employees can gain access to the files they need from any laptop or mobile device with an internet connection. Even without an internet connection, files can be synced to an employee’s devices.

Two of the most useful features for the E5 plan come in the form of SharePoint and OneDrive. SharePoint, a file sharing platform, allows for you to upload documents, restricting access by groups as well as create team sites and customer portals. We have helped organizations decommission aging file servers by utilizing the capabilities of SharePoint. It is a simple way to post, edit and distribute important documents and files throughout your organization quickly and easily. It is also helpful when files need to be shared with a prospect or client. For example, a proposal can be created and shared on a client-facing SharePoint site while still protecting the rest of your data. OneDrive is a cloud-based personal drive for easy access to files across multiple devices and locations. It provides mobile storage to each employee in the E5 plan that goes where you go. It gives each user 1 TB of personal cloud storage with the ability to expand if necessary.

When it comes to moving to the cloud, many organizations feel that sinking feeling in the pit of their collective stomachs; where is our data, is it secure? Security is a main concern with the cloud and rightly so. To help put your mind at ease, consider the fact that Microsoft spends billions and employs entire teams of qualified security experts to help protect the data entrusted to them by countless businesses ranging from small companies to the United States Government. In other words, Microsoft as a cloud provider is better equipped to protect your data than the world’s best IT guy. Other concerns about data leaving the four walls of your business as Office 365 creates ease of access for remote users are valid, however Microsoft has a solution within the E5 plan. With Rights Management services, you are able to restrict access and rights for specific documents both internally and externally. This helps prevent sensitive information from falling in to the wrong hands. If a terminated or disgruntled employee wants to remove information from your organization, it is simple and fast to remove access from that employee, keeping your data safe.

Another security feature in the E5 plan is Advanced Threat Protection. With a large portion of security threats entering your environment through emails and attachments, ATP is additional protection included in the E5 plan to protect against sophisticated malware attacks that target your business. As malicious users shift their focus to target small businesses for attack, the more protection you have, the better. Included within the Advanced Threat Protection is a robust tracking and reporting component. This allows you to see if there are patterns forming by the attackers, such as specifically targeted employees. The more information you have, the easier it is to take action to prevent disaster.

The Microsoft of years gone by was famous for restricting use from other operating systems, such as iOS. Luckily, they have seen the light and now are providing applications and access across PCs, Mac, iOS and Android devices. This means that you can edit and collaborate with co-workers from your iPhone remotely while they contribute from the office. Mobility and ease-of-access are key features of the E5 plan. Sticking with the theme of pain-free access to the Office 365 stack, it is important to highlight the single sign-on component of E5. Synced with your active directory, each user will create an account that acts as the login credentials for each application within E5. If compliance or a security concern requires more stringent barriers to access, an option for dual-factor authentication exists to enhance security. Dual-factor authentication would require a second form of credentials to access certain restricted applications or files and is especially useful in regulated industries.

For regulated businesses, the E5 plan also offers features to help your business stay compliant and operating efficiently. Email archiving allows organizations to create retention policies to keep important information readily available if necessary through eDiscovery an easy to use interface that lets you look up relevant emails quickly. Also included as a compliance feature is Legal Hold for end-user mailboxes, available to prevent accidental mail deletion without cluttering the user’s mailbox. They can continue to work without unintentional violations if the legally they must preserve the contents of the mailbox.

When Applied Tech works with a client considering a move to the cloud, one main concern we hear often is in regards to downtime. How reliable is Office 365? What is the point of reducing infrastructure if I can’t count on the cloud to be there when I need it? Both valid questions. Luckily, Microsoft backs up its Office 365 services with a 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement. With 24/7 support, if something does come up, someone will be there to help you. That probably beats the reliability of that aging server you have housed in a closet.

At the end of the day, the Office 365 E5 plan provides tremendous value to any organization. With the introduction of not-for-profit pricing from Microsoft, the value add is increased significantly for non-profit organizations. While migrating to the cloud may not the right choice for every business, this new offering might be the final push needed for yours to take the next steps. If now is the time to talk through the logistics of a migration to Office 365 or you just have a few questions, Applied Tech would be happy to speak with you. We have been recognized by Microsoft as the SMB Partner of the Year in the Midwest and we have helped migrate countless firms to the cloud. Please feel free reach out if you would like to talk through the process with one of our team members.

For more info on E5 visit:

https://products.office.com/en-us/business/office-365-enterprise-e5-business-software

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