I believe the key to being professional is communication.
I wanted to share a pro tip with everyone on how I facilitate and ensure high quality communication in my professional life. Although there are many things I do, one of the key ones is my Office 365 account.
I present this, I'm going to attempt to answer the two questions that I get asked about the most:
Why do you pay for email and calendar? Isn't Outlook.com Free?
The majority of my professional life happens in my email. It might start with a web form I fill out, a contract that I've discussed, or a presentation that I deliver, but at the end of the day the communication ends up on my email.
I realize that that there are free options out there. I've used them for years, and still use them to this day. Although these services are great and are generally reliable, I have no form of support if something goes wrong.
In the professional space, my email and calendar is an integral part of keeping myself organized and communicating with nearly everyone. Whether it be other professionals, conferences where I'm presenting, or clients and stakeholder my email and calendar is managed through those services. I want to make sure that my email is secure, the service is reliable, and that there is support available if I need it. Exchange Online provides me with what I need to make sure I'm connected and organized.
Why do you pay for SharePoint?
SharePoint gives me two things: reliable document backups and a public facing website.
With Office 365 and Office 2013, you get the option to install and setup SkyDrive Pro which is pretty much the same argument from earlier regarding email. I could get it for free, but if something goes wrong with my file backups (which it has) who do I have to call? In my experience it is a public forum that eventually gets dealt with, but being that SkyDrive is a free service, the number of support tickets are excessive and it just takes time.
Is a client going to be alright with you explaining that your backups in the cloud went missing? No. It's on you to ensure that your documents and data are safe, and SkyDrive Pro makes that possible.
This one I get asked about quite often. I'm an Internet Explorer MVP, and an IE User Agent. My passion is HTML which fuels the web. Why don't I just create my own website?
I have. Many times. If you've followed me via the web over the past 5 years, you definitely know it.
My problem is that building a personal website isn't my focus in my career or professional development. It's another project that is taking time away from the projects that do more than just facilitate communication. My website is another communication tool, just like email. I could build my own, but I need a website as a service to communicate, not as another project.
Although you argue that SharePoint is overkill for such a simple website, it ties in directly with Microsoft Office, it's hosted reliably in the Microsoft cloud, and when something appears to be going wrong there are support staff ready to help me. In conclusion, it gives me what I need to communicate out into the web and provides me an easy way to post more static content.
In the end, Office 365 gives me what I need to maintain my professionalism in the digital space. Between my public website, the document backups and management, and reliable Email and Calendar, it makes sense for me to subscribe to a service rather than try and piece a number of free tools together so I can save $9 a month.
If you want to be a professional, then be a professional. If you're willing to spend $7 at Starbucks on coffee every other day, why wouldn't you spend $7 on having professional email, calendar, file storage, and websites.
…and I didn't talk about Web Conferencing. :)
Thanks for playing.