Choosing between Office 365 or Fully Hosted Desktop Services

Office 365 or Fully Hosted Desktop?

Many people believe that cloud computing is a single technology delivering a “one size fits all”. However; there are a few drastic differences between the alternatives with benefits and drawbacks to each.

A benefit of any cloud solution is the ability for staff to “hot desk” from any location with an internet connection. Office 365 provides the following key products:-

Hosted email – Cloud based email

OneDrive – Cloud based file storage (Dropbox is a viable alternative)

SharePoint – Cloud based intranet system

Lync – Integrates with Skype, hosted phone system

Yammer – Private social network for internal communication

Office – Word, Excel, Outlook etc. can be installed on local workstations on a subscription basis.

These can be customised via different 365 licensing programmes.

Meanwhile, a Hosted Desktop solution provides a more traditional working office feel where the user has a work “Desktop” with the benefit of that being the fact that, via the remote connector, the user can access this Desktop from anywhere with an internet connection.

In this approach the mail server, the file stores, even the Desktop the user profiles, are all stored off-site; there is no supporting server infrastructure within your premises and so you’re not at risk of power cuts, theft or other similar “Disaster”. With the right arrangements, even the backups can be taken care of for you.

Hosted Desktop solutions are intrinsically “Hot Desk Ready” but Office 365-based solutions can be too, so long as you’re happy to use OWA (Outlook Web Access, the web-based version of Outlook) or configure the locally installed Outlook application with your login details.

Whatever the approach, accessing your important information from any computer from any internet-connected location is facilitated and because the storage is offsite (in purpose-built data centres) your data is physically and technologically safer.

Any other differences between Office 365 and fully Hosted Desktops?

Flexibility. Office 365 gives you specific products for solutions for email, file storage and communication. However, a Hosted Desktop allows you to do almost anything you would do with a local solution, except perhaps for graphics or CPU-intensive applications, which tend to suffer compared to their locally installed counterparts.

If you have specific software you wish to use (perhaps an accounts package, vehicle tracking software or a bespoke software product) this can be installed on the hosted desktop and then accessed from anywhere as a result.

Hardware requirements. Office 365 still requires the use of resources on the local PC as it has to power the Office applications, and any other software used to access the hosted files. On a Hosted Desktop, all the work is done by the servers within the cloud, meaning a computer with very low specs will still work quickly once connected to the hosted desktop, so long as the internet connection is reasonable quick, and stable.

Ultimately, both solutions provide many advantages to the old-school approach of running a server in the back of the local office, but the key difference for most companies will be cost. Most SME’s (Small / Medium Enterprises) will likely benefit most from Office 365, giving many benefits of a cloud solution with a low capital and operational cost. Larger companies with larger budgets, especially those operating from multiple sites, will benefit from the additional flexibility of Hosted Desktops, and their ability to create a uniform experience across the entirety of the firm.