Microsoft gives potential customers the chance to test drive some of its most popular software and services via free trials that ultimately make for better buying decisions.
Here is a sampling of some of the trials available for businesses that can be fired up via Microsoft Web pages:
Office Professional Plus 2013: Microsoft says this package for businesses contains new features in its component applications that make for better productivity, give more communications options, help meet compliance regulations and offer better management using real time performance monitoring. Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Lync, and InfoPath are all included in this 60-day trial.
Office 365 Small Business Premium and Midsize Business: See what aspects of this Office-as-a-service package might be practical for particular businesses. Many customers, for example, find that just using Exchange in Microsoft's cloud makes the investment worthwhile. Office 365 Small Business Premium and Midsize Business can be trialed for 30 days each. The small business option comes with 10 user licenses and the one for midsize businesses comes with 25 as well as Active Directory integration and self-service business intelligence.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online:Trialing this software can increase sales performance, build insights into customer activity and quickly solve customer problems all while the platform is managed via Microsoft Outlook, the company says. The 30-day trial comes with 25 user licenses plus 5GB of storage, and Microsoft provides wizards and videos for setting up the service quickly.
Windows Azure: During this 30-day trial of Microsoft's cloud services, customers can set up applications, virtual machines based Windows and Linux, and network infrastructure. They can also build Web sites and Web apps in the cloud. The trial includes a $200 credit to spend on the services.
Project Professional 2013: Customers can use this 60-day trial to try out this app for planning projects and collaborating remotely. The system is designed to work with other Microsoft applications and services. The platform provides a tool for making presentations about the progress of projects as well as a tool for gauging what resources will be needed as the project moves along. The system is designed to work with other Microsoft applications and cloud services such as SharePoint and Office 365.
Visio Professional 2013: Microsoft's diagramming and vector graphics program can be given a spin during a 60-day trial. The platform is designed to create diagrams intuitively with new shapes and stencils included among its resources. It also has updated effects and themes and supports co-authoring to make collaboration easier. Diagrams can be shared via Web browsers with no Visio client installed if users also have Microsoft's SharePoint.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene. Read more about software in Network World's Software section.