AT&T rolls out cloud-based Microsoft Office

AT&T looks to capitalize on small business client base with Microsoft Office 365 offering

Seeking to beef up its products and services for small and midsize businesses, AT&T Monday announced that it will offer Microsoft Office 365 as a cloud-based service.

AT&T is making the software as a service (SaaS) available for its 3 million small-business customers, about 300,000 of which already use cloud-based solutions from AT&T such as data backup and Office 365. This new offering will provide mobile and desktop access to popular Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the Lync instant messaging platform.

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Mike Sapien, a principal analyst with Ovum, says the news makes a lot of sense for AT&T. "It's a big play to have a really popular packaged app they can deliver to the SMB market," he says. "They're really putting something out there that businesses actually need."

Buying a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office from a vendor like AT&T has a number of potential advantages for users, Sapien points out. A cloud model frees users from having to dedicate on-premise resources to hosting the application, while allowing the programs to be accessed across a range of devices, including mobile platforms on the AT&T network.

The offering also comes with Tech Support 360, AT&T's support program for helping customers set up, migrate and service the software.

Cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 from AT&T starts at $6 per user per month and is broken into two tiers: one for businesses with between one and 25 users, and another for an unlimited number of users. In addition to purchasing the bundle, customers have a choice to purchase some apps as a stand-alone product, including Exchange email, Lync and SharePoint.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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