I applied early on for a Beta invite of Microsoft Office365. Microsoft’s business offering for Office in the Cloud.
About a month ago I finally received my invite and logged in. I was fascinated to see how Microsoft was going to compete with Google Apps and other Productivity Web Apps. It took me approximately 10 minutes to realize what a world-class winner Office365 was.
Those of you with a Windows Live account (the free version) have access to all the Live services including mail via Hotmail, storage in Skydrive and collaborative documentation/ productivity using Office Live. Office365 takes it up several notches for businesses of any scale.
What’s in the box?
Well, there’s no box but if there was it would be: –
Outlook / Exchange – with full functionality: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks …
Lync (download required from Office365 dashboard) – Pro MS Communicator.
Sharepoint – Site, Site Template, Tools and Central shared Document Storage.
Word, Excel, Powerpoint, One Note
Outlook Mobile Support (at present supported by US carriers only)
The Office365 Beta allows you to define 25 users/ licenses and to configure what permission level and applications they have access to use. Default login is https so security is predefined for the free domain domain.onmicrosoft.com or you can opt to use your existing domain. Should you opt for the first option this comes with 25Gb of storage.
All administration is done through the Admin Web Page and it couldn’t be easier or more intuitive to use than this.
In addition the Beta is free for 6 months, enough time for your business to decide you can’t live without Professional Office in the Cloud.
Office365 is going to be a game-changer on several levels but I’m watching to see how this is going to affect IT staffing. Installing new versions, service packs, patches or simply adding additional applications for a user is going to be scripted allowing a much leaner IT support staff.
Noticeably absent from the Beta is Microsoft Access. Does this mean no Access anymore or is this going to remain a pure Client application? If not then are users going to have to upscale to Microsoft SQL Azure?
Competitive or Not?
A final word, right now I don’t have pricing for this but money issues aside if I had to choose between Office365 and Google Apps for my organization; having used prior versions of Office and Google Apps I would definitely be sticking with Office for many reasons.