OSB Professional Liability Fund

Is Microsoft Office 365 a Good Bet for 2018?

January 12, 2018
by Sheila Blackford

My hope for inPractice readers is that they resolve that 2018 will be the year they learn more about technology and apply what they learn by taking action.
Lawyers don’t have the resources, time, or money to jump on the latest technology product or service for the mere sake of being an early adopter or follower of the crowd. We frequently only stop to consider the what and how and forget the why: does it facilitate providing better legal services to the client in the most efficient manner?
We all use a calendaring system, typically one that provides easy tracking of deadlines across devices so we can access our deadlines on our work computer, tablet, laptop, smartphone, and the cloud. More lawyers have turned to Office 365 Professional from Microsoft to handle their calendaring needs and much more.  Office 365 is a subscription-based application from Microsoft that allows solos and small law firms access to big-firm enterprise-level software and services.
The professional version − not the home version − provides recognizable tools such as Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word with others that may not be as widely used or known and some others you may have heard about.

  • Office 365 Business ($8.25/user/month on annual plan) is best for businesses that only need office applications plus cloud storage and file sharing on Microsoft OneDrive.
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50/user/month on annual plan) is best for businesses wanting more than Office applications. With this version you get business-class email on Microsoft Exchange server (Microsoft’s enterprise-class server for email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and more), plus  SharePoint (Microsoft’s collaboration, document, and workflow platform), Teams (Microsoft’s collaboration tools enabling collaboration throughout your firm),   Skype for Business (Microsoft’s secure communications platform that enables instant messaging, voice and video-calling, screen-sharing, and white-boarding) and Yammer (Microsofts social networking service for private communication throughout your organization) .
The best part of a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 is that it is installed on your local hard drive just as your previous version was, but you can also install it on your laptop you tote to court, the iPad you take to client meetings, and the Mac you run at home and sync to every mobile device. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can edit your files, check your emails, and calendar on the fly.  
To check out the privacy and security features of Office 365, visit the Office 365 Trust Center at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/trustcenter/cloudservices/office365 to reassure yourself that it has key security features for ease of mind: Office 365 is HIPAA and Federal Information Security Modernization Act certified and meets the ISO 27001 and EU Model Clauses. Office 365 stores your data in data centers in your local region and replicates it to multiple servers and data centers within that region. This complies with current technology wisdom that you should always have multiple copies of your data for safety and that your data is stored in your home country for compliance reasons. Your data is encrypted during transmission to and from Microsoft and when stored in the Microsoft data center.
You may balk at paying $8.25 or $12.50 per user per month, but because you can install Office 365 on multiple platforms and devices, you can easily pay as little as $2.00 or $3.00 per month per device. When you compare this cost with what you pay for a single copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2016 for $340, then a simple math calculation shows it would take 10 years to reach the same cost paying on a subscription basis − and that would include no version upgrades. 
If you are trying to widen your practice to have the flexibility of working in multiple locations on multiple platforms in 2018, then Microsoft Office 365 may be your go-to platform for accomplishing more with less.