Discounts Lure Nonprofits, Educators And Government To The Cloud

Office 365 is offered for free to education groups, with more comprehensive packages running as low as $30 a year for students ($2.50 per month per user) and $54 a year for faculty ($4.50 per month per user). This compares to a rate of $150 per year for small businesses. Other similar discount programs are offered by Adobe and Google Apps.

Tim Rettig, CEO and CTO of Intrust IT, said that he used to be a more traditional managed service provider but has turned toward the cloud because of the increased ability to keep up with current technologies. The growth he has seen in his own business has particularly been driven by nonprofits, educators and government groups that are moving toward cloud-based programs such as Office 365, which help cut down on costs and maintain up-to-date technology with Software-as-a-Service.

[Related: VMware Joins Open Source Advocacy Group, Targets Government Agencies ]

"From a strategic standpoint, it has given us a lot of advantages," Rettig said.

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Patrick Carey, vice president of product management and marketing at Waltham, Mass.-based Exoprise Systems, said that he also has seen an increase in both the breadth and acceleration of local government and higher education, in particular, turning to the cloud to cut costs.

"For those types of organizations where their IT department is under a particular economic strain to do more with less, the Office 365 offering, and cloud in general, offers a lot of advantages for them, both in terms of reducing capital expenditure for them, but also, operationally, it does allow them to deliver a higher-quality, more sophisticated service to their user base," Carey said. "I think it’s a total win for them."

Carey predicted there was more growth to come as more organizations continued to adopt cloud computing.

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agreed that the ability for companies to cut costs on the cloud made them eager to make the switch.

"These guys are always trying to do so much on so little," said Goldstein. "One of the things that this does help is it gives them enterprise solutions for a fraction of the cost."

Part of the appeal, Goldstein said, is that Microsoft has really streamlined the process. He said it was as simple as submitting a few pieces of paperwork for his clients that qualify.

"We know our business so we look for those things that are in place there," said Goldstein. "We try to help the not-for-profit customers with services along the way. You have to give back someplace."