In Tools

This is the first in a series of five posts which are a little off my usual subject matter – but which I think are of some relevance to startups.


My approach to IT for Salient Point has been pretty 20th century, and in this age of “any device, any where, any time” I was feeling a bit left behind, so I decided to take a look at what I was doing.

I think that my starting point is fairly typical of many small businesses, including startups, so I thought I’d share some of my thinking about the choices I made, and some of the challenges I came across along the way.

Does Office 365 give small companies access to enterprise-class IT, or is it just a way for Microsoft to market Office in the Cloud age?

I started with a pretty straightforward, and rather 20th century, IT setup for Salient Point:

  • A laptop with EVERYTHING on it – if it died, I had nothing to work on
  • Carbonite online backup – so I could recover my files once I got a new computer
  • External Hard Drive – monthly local backups
  • DropBox – Occasional file sharing
  • E-Mail in 6 different accounts accessed by POP, with an archive on my Laptop
  • CompanionLink to sync contacts and calendar (intermittently, when it felt like it) to Google and thus to Android

What I wanted to achieve was:

  • Be able to work effectively on a range of devices including laptops, smartphones and tablets
  • Reduce (or eliminate) the dependence on one laptop
  • Have the ability to work offline on trains/planes etc without having to download copies of files in advance

I considered a number of ways of achieving this goal, but in the end I settled on moving to Office 365 Small Business Premium– mostly because I spend so much of my time using PowerPoint, Excel and Word, and I am a big fan of Outlook.

Office 365 offers:

  • A single service for all my key business needs
  • Enterprise grade security, scalability and robustness
  • The Office applications I spend most of my time in are available to install on 5 devices (including Windows, Android, iPhone etc) and to use on the web
  • OneDrive sync with devices to allow offline access
  • I can access my files using the Web version of Office apps to connect to OneDrive from anywhere on any device
  • Exchange e-mail works very well offline , syncs efficiently, and allows me to upload my whole archive

I will still use:

  • Carbonite as an independent backup, and to backup files I don’t have on OneDrive
  • External Hard Drive – monthly local backups

I had some other ideas, but they all fell down after initial examination…

  • I tried Google Mail with IMAP – but the sync was slow  on both desktop and Android, and almost unusable with poor data connections
  • DropBox would work for files, but I would still need applications installed to edit them

The migration to Office365 is now complete and overall it has been a huge success.  In the next few posts in this series, I will share some of decisions and problems I encountered along the way, so anyone considering a similar migration can benefit from my experience.


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