Office 365 is a capable and robust communications and collaboration platform. Microsoft has assembled a wide collection of features and functions that can satisfy a range of corporate requirements for email, voice, desktop productivity and collaboration that has proven to be highly successful, as demonstrated by the significant growth in users of the platform.
Microsoft is attempting to deliver a cloud service that does many things for a broad range across productivity, security, compliance, and data protection. This is a significant task and has many complexities and inter-dependencies that must be traded off against one another. Like any large platform with a large and diverse user base, it frequently provides a “good enough” capability in many areas, but does not necessarily provide the depth of capability or specialized solutions for customers with needs and requirements beyond the basics. These may be companies looking for deeper functionality or better performance in specific areas, or companies with specialized needs, like companies in regulated sectors or those subject to new multisector data protection legislation that need to satisfy their legal, regulatory or best practices requirements.
The tight inter-linkages between multiple services also create single points-of-failure, such as the two multi-factor authentication meltdowns that occurred during November 2018. Moreover, Osterman Research has found that many third-party solutions often present a better alternative to some of the native capabilities within the Office 365 platform.
In short, Osterman Research believes that Office 365 and Exchange Online are important and capable platforms that should seriously be considered for use by just about any organization. However, decision makers should understand their real requirements and identify any feature or performance gaps vis-à-vis the platform. Office 365 provides a solid foundation to which many organizations should then add third-party solutions in order to provide higher levels of security, content management, encryption and other capabilities. We note that the use of third-party solutions will often enable the use of less expensive Office 365 plans, resulting in a total cost of ownership that can be lower than if more expensive Office 365 plans are used.