Office 365 is Microsoft's cloud based version of their popular Office suite, which gives you and your colleagues access to all of the essential Office applications through multiple installs per user, and unlimited cloud access via online web applications.
A full breakdown of the excellent features is available here, as well as a summary of the multiple benefits for individuals and businesses.
How does Office 365 enhance collaboration and help my staff to work together?
Office 365 enables greater internal collaboration and communication for businesses, at a fraction of the cost of hosting your own on-premise infrastructure.
With Office 365, you get access to SharePoint and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). OneDrive acts as your company's file storage server in the cloud. Files which you save here are saved off-premise in Microsoft's data centres, rather than locally on your machine (although you can still do this if you wish).
You can make your files easily available to your colleagues by sharing them. Files you share, or that are shared with you, are accessible to everyone with access through SharePoint. This allows you to work together and edit files in real time. You can see who has worked on files and when, and you don't have to keep sending updated versions of documents over email whenever something changes! Documents that are shared with you, which are then updated before you see them, will be the latest version when you get round to viewing them. Even if they were sent over email.
To get the most out of the Office 365 offering, it is recommended that you save your files in the cloud, so you can always access them regardless of what device you are using - even being able to access them through the online web apps if the devices don't have Microsoft Office installed.
As Office 365 is available anywhere you have a device and an internet connection, collaboration is not limited to when members of the same team are sharing the same location.
Communication and Collaboration Improvements
Office 365 also gives your organisation access to Microsoft Lync, an instant messaging application. However, Lync doesn't just allow you to send and receive messages. It integrates with Outlook, pulling everyone's status and availability from their calendars so you know when you're likely to get a reply, and when is probably best to try another time.
Lync also allows you to make free VoIP voice and video calls, and supports video conferencing and screen sharing between colleagues - further enhancing productivity and collaboration.
Intra Business Social Networking
Office 365 includes Yammer, an enterprise social networking tool for your business. Your Yammer network will be open only to your colleagues, and colleagues can form groups based on departments, projects or interests. You can use it to post announcements to the whole company, update members of a group that you're working on a project with, and also just as a way to have relaxed social interaction with your fellow colleagues. Yammer prevents email inboxes from becoming cluttered.
The groups concept from Yammer is also extended across Office 365, so you can share files and collaborate on documents with specific groups of people, or hold instant message conversations or video conferences with your group on Lync.
Everywhere access to Microsoft Office
Office 365 means you can stay in touch with your organisation no matter where you are, and what device you have access to. There's no longer any need to worry about remote desktop applications, or whether your friend's laptop has got excel installed on it. You don't even have to configure your work emails on your phone or tablet if you're in a hurry. You can just sign in via your web browser, and get access to all of your emails, tasks, contacts and calendars, with no loss of functionality.
The Cost Efficient Solution
Office 365 is a software/infrastructure as a service solution - meaning you pay a small monthly fee per user, per month to effectively rent the software, and pay to remotely use Microsoft's server infrastructure in their data centres. The cost of this is far smaller and more manageable than having your own comparable solution, and there is no up-front capital to consider. In addition, you don't have to manage the hardware yourself, or employ someone to do it, nor do you have to worry about maintaining the hardware, installing patches and security updates.