- Cloud Essentials
- Software as a Service
- Accounting / Financial
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- Content Management
- Document Management
- Help Desk Management
- IT / Application Management
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- Infrastructure as a Service
- Platform as a Service
Interesting features but poor support bedevils Office 365 beta
Microsoft has launched the Office 365 beta. It offers users a host of features but there are support issues to sort out.
Microsoft’s previous attempts to move users to cloud computing have been a bit piecemeal with various brands all doing their own thing. Office 365 is an attempt to pull all these efforts together, subsuming other products such as Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Live@Edu and Office Live Small Business into one brand and one technology base.
At its heart, Office 365 consists of three online services – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Exchange provides email, contacts, calendar, task lists, etc. SharePoint gives you document storage & collaboration and Lync provides presence information, instant messaging, audio and video calls & conferencing and application sharing. All these are linked together with Office applications – Office Web Apps, Office 2010 Professional Plus, which you rent as part of Office 365, or other Office 2007 or 2010 suites you purchase separately.
Plans & Prices
The various Office 365 plans break into families, each aimed at a different business sector. Those announced so far include plans for Small Business, of up to 25 users, Enterprise, Education and Kiosk Workers.
The Enterprise plans are the most full featured but they don’t include the DIY web hosting that is part of the Small Business plan as standard. The Kiosk Worker plans are for businesses who want to provide workers with access to mail and office documents without having to provide each one with their own individual PC.
The extra features included in the Enterprise E3 plan include the ability to run Access databases on SharePoint online, publish and view Excel workbooks and charts to SharePoint and have Visio diagrams hosted in SharePoint. The enterprise voice features for plans E4 and A4, integrating with your PBX, are not ready yet and, if you don’t have a compatible PBX, making and receiving standard phone calls via Lync will rely on extra, third-party, gateway services between your Office 365 organisation and the standard phone system.
The UK price list for the Education plans hasn’t been released in full yet but, if the prices follow the same pattern as the other families, the A2 plan at $10 a month for staff will equate to £6.50 per user per month in the UK.
You will be able to mix and match the number of licences you buy for each plan within a family so you can give some workers the E1 plan, others E2 or E3 and you can upgrade or downgrade users at any time. Removing the rented Office 2010 Professional Plus licence from a user will downgrade the rented Office suite installed on their PC to read-only mode.
One of the main components of Office 365 is Exchange Online. This gives you a full-featured virtual Exchange Server in the cloud. It is easy to manage with simple web-based systems for adding new mailboxes, resources such as meeting rooms and managing integration with other services such as mobile phones.