What questions were people asking at CRE?

Raison D’etre

I decided to take AMDH Services Ltd to the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) because charities and churches need ICT just as much as businesses and public sector do. I was concerned that charities and churches – including those I support – would not have thought strategically about their use of ICT – in particular i) how they engage with their supporters and ii) how they engage with their staff.

I had a number of interesting conversations with a range of different organisations over the two days of CRE – from large charities, to denominational leadership, church ministers who have responsibility of multiple churches through to elders and wardens of individual churches.

 

Office 365

The main focus of my conversations was around how Office 365’s collaboration features could help charities and churches to work together both internally and with other churches more effectively and how Microsoft have subsidised the pricing for registered charities. You can read more about this in my white paper on the topic.

 

Affordable

For a charity or church one of the major challenges of using commercial software is simply the cost. Microsoft though have stepped up to the mark on this front. Here are two offers that illustrate this:

  • Office 365 Business Premium Non-Profit edition costs a mere £2.14 per user per month – down from a price of £7.92 for businesses.

  • Microsoft 365 Non-Profit edition costs a mere £3.56 per user per month – down from a price of £12.67 for businesses.

I believe this special non-profit pricing makes Office 365 and Microsoft 365 accessible to charities.

 

OK – What’s Microsoft 365?

To me the Microsoft 365 offer for non-profits is particularly compelling – this offer bundles the Office 365 suite together with Windows 10 enterprise and the EM+S set of products. EM+S stands for Enterprise Mobility & Security and enables users to access their Office 365 products on mobile devices but with a full security solution wrapped around it.

 

So is Microsoft 365 Worthwhile For charities?

Its early days yet but I believe from the conversations I had that a number of churches and associated charities will be interested in the capabilities that Microsoft 365 offers – in particular the collaboration offerings and the low price. Surprisingly few organisations were aware that Microsoft offers discounts on their software to charities.

 

So why not just use Dropbox?

One question that probably needs addressing is why not just use Dropbox to share documents within a charity? It’s true that Dropbox is extremely simple – you install it then use it… to share with someone you just need their email address. So why would you ever use anything other than Dropbox?

A single (free) Dropbox account has a limited capacity of 2GB, can only exist on three devices at once, and designed for individuals not organisations like businesses or charities. It lacks the granular controls and audit capabilities enterprise-class document management and sharing tools offer. Also to move beyond the 2GB – three devices limit you have to move to one of the pay monthly offerings which start at £7.99 for 2TB and unlimited devices.

The capabilities that Microsoft 365 provides for £3.56 per month are significantly greater than those of the “Dropbox Plus” service.

 

What is the Office 365 equivolent of Dropbox?

There are really two answers to this –

    • Onedrive for business is a part of Office 365 that offers directly equivolent functionality to Dropbox. I.e. the ability to synchonize folders on multiple devices and share content with others.

    • Sharepoint Online is a fully fledged document management system with all the bells and whistles. Onedrive for business is built upon and integrates into the Sharepoint backend in Office 365. It offers a halfway house between a document management system and a team website and because of this can be used in a variety of different ways – for projects, for teams, for groups with similar interests, for large programmes, for external collaboration and so on.

 

Couldn’t I just do everything for free?

It’s true that on the internet you could find a whole load of free products to cover a fair chunk of the features / software available from Office 365 but I think this will create a lot of unwanted side effects and probably be unmanagable. For example – you’d need accounts and receive “nuisance” naggy emails from every separate bit of software you used – plus they wouldn’t integrate into each other.

Also – from a governance and compliance perspective you couldn’t guarantee what uses the different sites would make of your data nor which country they’d store it in and it certainly would not be an audit-able solution that was secure. The different bits of software also wouldn’t easily integrate with each other seamlessly.

 

So?

I think that Microsoft 365 for non-profits offers real value and would be beneficial for charities and churches to at least entertain the idea of running a trial of the software.

[All pricing in this post was correct as of 11/03/2020]

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