What is Office 365?According to marketing brochures, Office 365 means access to email, documents, contacts, and calendars anywhere. It´s business-class security and reliability. And it's an all in one, pay-as-you-go service with an affordable price. Yeah, God bless marketing specialists. Lets uncover this marketing definition in a more practical way: Microsoft Office 365 is first of all a set of proven and functionally-rich office applications, backed by complex and extensive services that allow collaboration of every employee across the organization in multiple situations and on multiple devices. It´s not just Word or Excel in the cloud. Microsoft Office 365 is a professional solution that offers proven tools that users know plus tools for sharing information, collaboration, and corporate administration.
The product is offered in four editions:
- Email (Exchange Online)
- Small business (P1)
- Midsize business and enterprises (E1 or E3)
Each edition combines subscription to the familiar Microsoft Office Web Apps with a set of additional web-enabled tools.
- Email (Exchange Online) represents a “start up” service that lets you access your email (using your own domain), shared calendars, Active Directory synchronization and contacts. This edition is suitable choice for every-large company. The Price starts at $4 per user/month with a limit of total users - 50,000+.
- Small business (P1) is targeted to small businesses and enterprises that need to use more than just e-mail and Active Directory. Price is set to $6 per user/month. This solution offers following services: Email, shared calendars, instant messaging, web-based viewing and editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files, antivirus and antispam filtering, team site for sharing files and Microsoft community support. Only 50 users can use this type of subscription.
- Midsize business and enterprises subscription offers two plans called E1 and E3. There are some differences between these plans, except of the price. Plan E1 allows you to use all features of plan P1 and of course added features like configurable anti-spam filter, SharePoint intranet support up to 300 subsites and live 24 x 7 IT customer phone support. Plan called E3 offers (except of the same above mentioned features of plan E1) Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop version subscription (for up to 5 devices per user), unlimited email storage and hosted voicemail support. The price of plan E1 starts at $8 per user/month and price of plan E3 starts at $20 per user/month.
- Subscription for educational institutions (available in United States only) includes everything offered in Office 365 for enterprises, and in addition is specially tailored to meet the needs of educators, students, and education partners. Office 365 for education has even the same up-time availability commitment, backed by a SLA, as Office 365 for enterprises. It is available in two editions. In the Edition without Office Desktop Software which is strictly meant for academic institutions staff and students pay no charge, while in the edition with Office Desktop Software faculty staff pays $4.50 USD and students pay $2.50 USD (monthly fee).
Microsoft Office 365 contains multiple applications and services described below. You can buy these individual applications also separately, but Office 365 service offers a convenient package that integrates everything under one roof and for a good price.
If you are not sure which version is better for your purpose, you can try this product free for 30 days and after that decide if you want to continue to use Office 365 or not.
What is included in Office 365?
- Office Professional Plus - a complete enterprise-class desktop software for Office automation with a month-to-month, per-user licensing;
- Exchange Online - an email, calendar and contacts solution based on Microsoft Exchange server offering 25 GB of email storage per user;
- Sharepoint Online - a service that allows to share documents and information with colleagues, and customers via a dedicated web site (collaboration, sharing, and document editing tool);
- Lync Online - enterprise-level instant messaging service (IM) with rich functionality (web conferencing, audio/video calling, online meetings, whiteboards, and additional collaboration tools);
- Office Web Apps - browser-based versions of Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. This is the way of viewing or editing your documents from any device having only internet connection and web browser, without the need of desktop MS Office software.
Tip:It is better to buy the whole package than each service separately.
Practical examples of deployment1. Imagine you are a secretary responsible for inviting company customers for your Christmas party, but of course you don´t know them. One possibility is to post an announcement on your company web page. Other and better way is to create a shared spreadsheet (via Office Web Apps). Then you ask (via Microsoft Lync or other tools) all sales people of your firm to write clients names and email addresses into this spreadsheet, and the work is basically done. When your colleagues finish, you can extract email addresses from the completed document and send personal invitations to your clients via email (Microsoft Exchange).2. The following more colorful example comes directly from the web pages of Microsoft:Google Apps vs Microsoft Office 365At this time you probably ask - where is the difference between Microsoft Office 365 and its main rivals, mainly Google with its Google Apps?Google offers only office suite, that means tools for everyday office work. You are able to create text documents, tables in spreadsheets, presentations, send emails, manage your time with calendar and many other things, although it´s just a tool for small businesses. But that´s enough. You don´t need more for small business.The real power of Office 365 is in its integration with traditional IT software that currently powers large corporations of the world. Whether you need the extensive office functionality which you know from classic desktop Microsoft Office software, or whether your company has a long term experience using Microsoft products and migration to another system would be painful and expensive, Office 365 will be the service to consider. Also if your company has already set up local Active Directory environment, this investment will be preserved. When you subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise edition, you will find an useful tool called Microsoft Online Services Directory Synchronization. This tool allows you to synchronize your existing Active Directory users to your Office 365 directory and keep it synchronized. You can thus create synchronized versions of each user account and group, but also set up global address list (GAL) synchronization from your local Microsoft Exchange Server environment to Microsoft Exchange Online.SummaryOffice automation suite Microsoft Office 365 has similar functionality to other competing product like Zoho Office suite or Google Apps. Office 365 differs in the way that it is not just cloud based software, but also desktop software (in certain versions) that offers significant offline functionality. Obviously, you will be unable to fire all your IT staff. However, if you subscribe to this solution, you will benefit from proven best of breed office automation products, easy integration with your corporate IT, good security of your data and professional technical support from Microsoft.What we liked:+ The ability to access company data from everywhere and multiple devices+ Proven and familiar user interface that is the same both in desktop software and in the cloud+ Professional technical supportWhat we didn´t like:- Is this solution really economical for existing MS Office users? Initial costs are lower, but if you need only MS Office software, this choice is not economical for you over the time- Definitely more expensive for small businesses than other competitive products, but this disadvantage is balanced with good technical support