Reflections on Office 365
31 August 2011
Office 365 was launched by Microsoft in late June, so it's opportune to take a look at some of the initial industry feedback and opinions on this new cloud service.
But before we do so, let's quickly establish exactly what Office 365 actually is. Essentially it's an update of Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and brings together Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service, on a monthly subscription basis starting at £4 ($12) per user per month for small businesses. The Lync Online component is a combination of what were previously the Office Communications Online and Live Meeting services.
So, how has it fared in terms of initial feedback from industry reviews? In short, very well indeed.
Two area of obvious interest are the price and how it compares with its main cloud-based rival, Google Apps. Certainly The Guardian was in no doubts as to its merits on both counts, saying: "The financial savings over time will be significant and although its price point is a lot higher than Google Apps, I think the options and familiarity are vastly superior. The desktop software almost moves it away from comparison with Google Apps: most important of all is the free phone administrator support, which has always been a major advantage (and cost) that even BPOS had over Google Apps.
PC PRO concurred on the price issue: "Assuming Office 365 has the same level of reliability as BPOS, at this price it could be hard to make a case for on-premise mail servers unless your business is regulated. The inclusion of Lync Online and SharePoint are the icing on the cake.
Indeed, Office 365 looks set to become a credible business cloud service, and one that will make sense for a lot of businesses that can find better things to do with their IT time and budget than running an Exchange server."
One other big plus of Office 365 is obviously familiarity. TechRadar reported: "Microsoft Office 365 is more streamlined, with its services integrating much better than Google's various products. If your small business already uses Microsoft Office products then this is an excellent accompaniment." This view was reinforced by InfoWorld: "...in comparison with a move to Google Apps, the bottom line is that Microsoft's cloud represents a relatively modest transition from existing technologies. Google's cloud, by contrast, amounts to a complete break from the past. For companies that seek the benefits of the cloud without dramatic change, Office 365 is the obvious choice".
There are some concerns, of course, one of these being the fact that there's no telephone integration as yet. Microsoft doesn't plan to provide voice telephone services itself. Instead it will partner with existing voice providers who can integrate their services with Office 365, though it's unlikely these will arrive any time soon.
Overall though, the consensus appears to be that Microsoft has got it pretty much right. ZD Net UK summed it up as follows: "There's enough in the Office Web Apps to get most users started with collaboration and cloud document storage. With subscriptions starting at £4 or $12 per user per month for a basic small-business subscription, Office 365 looks capable of finally fulfilling Microsoft's promise of providing an end-to-end cloud-based solution for information workers??-??and not just in large enterprises."
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