Integrate Office 365 on Remote Desktops in the Cloud

If you’ve used or implemented Office 365 you’ll know that (with the right plan) you can install local versions of Office and save documents to the cloud (OneDrive) which you or your colleagues can access with other installs of Office 365 on other computers and other sites.

Or you can run a web version of Office via a browser.   So from a cloud computing point of view Office 365 ticks many of the boxes.

You’re also know that many applications are designed to work with Office. This may be an “Export to Excel” function, or populating letter templates in Word from data in your CRM system, to running Macros or VB to fully integrate Office with other desktop software.   However, this can be where the cloud ethos breaks down.   While you can run Office 365 from anywhere how can you also run your CRM, Accounting or Stock Control application alongside it?   The Internet isn’t yet quick enough to keep your database in OneDrive so inevitably you may end up being tied to the desktop to use your line of business application.

Office 365 on Remote Desktops

Of course this isn’t a new problem. Long before the term “cloud” was coined, roaming and remote workers had the ability to run Office on their laptops but other applications that shared data were more challenging.

The solution is also not fundamentally new.   For a couple of decades large corporations have used Remote Desktop Services (RDS,) aka Terminal Services, to enable remote workers to run their line of business applications.   If you’re not aware of RDS it is simply using Windows servers based at a central site to run your applications.   The display output of the application is sent over the network and the keyboard and mouse clicks are sent back.   It’s a bit like having a 100 mile long monitor, keyboard and mouse cable.

For applications that interface/integrate with Office the solution was to also run Office on the remote desktop server or terminal server. As long as the users were on the corporate Wide Area Network (WAN) they could run their applications from any site.

Jump forward a few years and the improvements in Internet bandwidth and server virtualisation technology means that it is now easy to run remote desktops via the Internet and have them hosted by third party specialists like Your Office Anywhere which use economies of scale to provide this service to small business at very low cost.

Can you install Office 365 on a Terminal Server?

So, joining all the dots, if you have a line of business application that integrates with Office 365 is it possible to run Office 365 on a remote desktop server or terminal server alongside other software so your business can fully enjoy the benefits of cloud computing?

The answer is, “Yes you can” but with a couple of complications.   Running Office 365 on a remote desktop server has been restricted by Microsoft to only certain plans. Specifically ProPlus or plans which use ProPlus e.g. E3 or E5.   This is one of the features available in ProPlus called Shared Computer Activation (SCA).   Running Office 365 Business or Business Premium on a remote desktop server won’t work, Office 365 won’t activate. See this article for more information on this.

Also, only certain certified third party hosting providers have been authorised by Microsoft to run Office 365 on their terminal servers.   Your Office Anywhere is one of only a very small number of hosting providers in the UK certified to run Office 365 on a terminal server.

So, to summarise, it is now very easy to run any desktop software that integrates with Office 365 in the cloud and access it from anywhere over the internet and on any device, and at the same time remove the need for onsite IT server infrastructure.

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