Service Providers Are at the Heart of Our Small Business Cloud Productivity Push

Whether you’re looking for a simple way to stay connected with your colleagues or a hub for your company email, the future is almost certainly in the cloud.

But as fast as cloud computing is growing, not many are talking about what might be the most important aspect of the cloud ― the power to help millions of small businesses gain access to the latest in enterprise-class technology.

For the first time, the local diner can have the same enterprise-grade email as a major restaurant chain, and the small auto parts supplier can have the same collaboration system as one of Detroit’s big three.

This is made possible with Microsoft Office 365. Introduced yesterday in over 40 markets around the world, Office 365 gives small businesses a slice of the cloud and access to all the latest business tools for the price of a sandwich.

And small businesses have definitely taken an interest in Office 365. In fact, during the limited beta period, over 70 percent of beta users were small businesses. Now, as the service goes to market, small businesses are turning to companies they know and trust to get Office 365. In a recent study, we found that 82 percent of SMBs in 16 countries said they want cloud services from a vendor with a local presence. This means your mobile phone, network or broadband provider can give you Microsoft’s enterprise-grade email, shared documents, instant messaging, and video and web conferencing in the cloud (Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online and Microsoft Lync Online). It also means you can get support for Office 365 from your existing service provider and see everything on one bill from them. With our lineup of partners, SMBs get the benefit of Microsoft’s cloud productivity tools integrated with additional value-added services depending on the provider ― services such as Web hosting, finance solutions, broadband or mobile services.

This isn’t a bad deal for Microsoft either. We estimate that our service provider partners around the world have relationships with millions of SMBs. As we bring Office 365 to market, we’re delighted to have some of the best-known service providers ― companies such as Bell Canada, Intuit, Orange, Mamut, Telefónica/O2, Telmex, Telstra, UPC and Vodafone ― as cloud advocates across the globe.

Of course, this hasn’t been an easy task and has involved a great deal of commitment on both sides to establish these deep partnerships. Essentially, we’ve been working hand in hand with each operator partner to make sure everyone in their company ― from the CEO to the sales rep ― understands Office 365 inside and out and supports the offering alongside the services they already provide. We have provided partners with the flexibility to sell, support and directly bill their end customers for the Office 365 service.

For a complete list of our launch partners, please visit Office 365 News Center. We’ll be adding more in the next few months.

Ten years from now, we think most small businesses will be in the cloud. By offering Office 365 through local operators, we think we’ve given small businesses an option that’s simple from a provider they already know and trust. And we think they’ll agree.

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