I recently interviewed CGNET’s CEO Georg Lindsey about how Microsoft Office 365 fits into the company’s offerings. It turns out there are interesting benefits from getting Office 365 through CGNET.
Tim: Georg, how does Office 365 fit into the products that CGNET offers?
Georg Lindsey: Office 365 is an exciting new product from Microsoft that integrates, email, messaging, file sharing via SharePoint, instant messaging, voice, video, and so forth into a very affordable package.
In relation to our product offerings, this represents an evolution. When we first offered email, a long, long time ago, there only was a centralized, hosted solution that you usually logged onto with a terminal. Then it got a whole lot cheaper to host the mail on your own servers on your own site. Then it got a lot cheaper, more secure and more reliable to have it “in the cloud.” A few years ago, we offered email in the cloud on our own private infrastructure. Back then, it was the best alternative.
Now, it turns out, it’s just as good for us to use Microsoft’s infrastructure. We can support our clients using Microsoft servers. We use their rack space and their electricity and their cooling and their maintenance. It’s just a progression of where we’re going, keeping up with the latest technology, and it is a natural continuation of our offerings.
Tim: Okay, so at this point, CGNET provides Office 365?
Georg Lindsey: We’re a partner of Microsoft and have been for about 15 years.
Georg Lindsey: Microsoft, you know, actually approached us a couple years ago. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think they had become aware of our presence in the NGO and nonprofit arena. They wanted us to be a partner in their communications area, which involves using Lync.
But to answer your question, Office 365 offers email and Team Sites, which is simplified SharePoint. Also, there’s voice, chatting, white-boarding and more via Lync. I think that’s one of the cool things about Office 365: you get the whole package, and it all works together. And if you go beyond the free plan for nonprofits, you get five Office 2013 licenses for each user.
With Office 365, when I use Word, I can choose to use Sky Drive. When you get home, you can get the file from there. You can also save the file to a public area so that somebody else can use it. The whole package together is probably the most compelling way to do it because you get all of those things, and they all work well together.
Tim: Is there any advantage in getting Office 365 direct from Microsoft?
Georg Lindsey: Not that I can think of. Microsoft likes to sell Office 365 through partners. I suppose if you are British Petroleum and you can cut a big deal because you’ve got 50,000 seats or you’re the Air Force you can do a special deal, but for anything under 30,000 seats or so, Microsoft usually steers people to a partner.
Partners have two advantages. One is that we know our clients, where they are, what they want and how they work. Microsoft support is great to have in the background, but you can often get to us a lot quicker than you can get through to a support person on the phone at Microsoft. We often solve problems in hours rather than days. We can be more responsive since we’re a small nimble organization. Microsoft has its strengths, but being a small nimble organization is not one of them. Working with a partner has its advantages and the price is exactly the same that you would get from Microsoft.
Tim: Indeed. Does CGNET provide migration and implementation services for Office 365?
Georg Lindsey: Sure. That’s the beauty of, uh working closely with people you know. We’ve migrated our customers from non-Microsoft solutions to Microsoft Mail, to Exchange, to Active Directory, to Exchange hosted here, and now to Office 365. We’ve continuously done that for about 30 years. We’ve always helped our clients migrate to the next thing,
Last year, we migrated 10,000 mailboxes, and of the 10,000, probably 8,000 were hosted here and 2,000 were Office 365. The 8,000 here may well go to Office 365 next. But some people want to have their servers here. They like it. They like being able to think of the idea of putting their server in a truck and driving it back to their offices, if they want to. And, as I said, we’ve had hosted email for a long time. So they are happy.
Tim: So, finally, are there any questions that you think need to be answered about CGNET’s relationship with Office 365?
Georg Lindsey: Well, Tim, I guess the main thing is that some people wonder why CGNET would want folks to move to Office 365 instead of hosting Exchange with us.
We offer our own hosted services and for a while that was competing with the original hosted Exchange offering, BPOS. These days, we can do well either way.
The bottom line is that Microsoft gives us residuals as long as we’re the “partner of record” on an Office 365. You can sign up online, your credit card number and bingo, you’ve got Office 365, and you can designate us as the partner of record. CGNET will get credit for that as long as our partner number is listed. (By the way our number is 1169233 in case you need it.) And the partner of record can be changed at any time if need to select someone else
Basically, the more Office 365 seats we have, the better residuals we get. If you only have a few, you’re in a small percentage range, but get more, you get a higher percentage as well as bigger numbers.
Another thing, we are thought of within the Microsoft world as the go to organization for non-profits. Because of this relationship, we know how to get non-profit licensing. That requires some bureaucratic steps in terms of approvals but we have done it a lot. That’s another benefit of having us in your corner.