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Introducing Office 365

On Tuesday Microsoft announced general availability of Office 365, their next-generation hosted services platform.  The platform can include a range of services, including Exchange Server (email and calendaring), Sharepoint (collaboration), and Lync (instant messaging, voice and video conferencing).  Larger plans include email archiving and even PC-to-phone through Lync.

While Office 365 is an evolutionary step from Business Productivity Online Suite, it’s exceptionally disruptive. For the first time, any company can afford to have enterprise-level technologies at their disposal.  5 person companies can now afford to have full Exchange Server, sync’ing to their iPhones in real time, and full SharePoint.  There’s no hardware costs, and minimal IT costs (some setup).  In most situations, Office 365 is a no-brainer for companies.

Microsoft has gone the path of offering many different plans and options for customers.  While this is a little confusing to start, with a little guidance it’s easy to navigate and find the right package for your company.  What it does provide is a range of prices and options, so you only end up paying for what you need.  Don’t want SharePoint?  There’s a plan for that.  Want more powerful collaboration and workflow options, there’s a plan for that too. The pricing model gives you flexibility.

There are some situations where Office 365 doesn’t make financial sense.  In the next few articles I will be posting some simple cases, showing ROI for various SMB situations.  I’m not using Microsoft’s bloated ROI calculator – these will be real world numbers and extremely simple calculations that anyone can follow.

A couple big questions loom for the future of Office 365:

  1. How is the support when there’s a problem?
  2. Will it provide enterprise-class up time?

Support
I’ve been using Office 365 since the beta was released and have many clients on BPOS.  BPOS most definitely had its challenges, and I spent a good number of hours on the phone with Microsoft.  Their tech support is limited to the “IT Administrator” calling in.  The support representatives have been attentive and tried their best to solve any issues. I would rank them as good as most of the large company call centers I’ve worked with.

Reliability
In the past 3 months, BPOS has had 2 major outages.  Some of my clients experienced downtime with both of these outages.

Some of the local (and national) Hosted Exchange providers point to this as a reason why BPOS isn’t “enterprise class” and their hosted environment is.  Is all of their data located in multiple data centers?  If one location fails, will I seemlessly be routed to another data center?  For most providers, the answer is no.  They simply have fewer users (by a major order of magnitude) and less traffic on their system.

Office 365 is all new technology, designed from the ground up to be an online service (which BPOS was not).  Microsoft claims that all data is replicated multiple times in the same data center, and then to other data centers for full redundancy.

That being said, it’s something I will be watching closely. I have yet to have a blip on the beta.

Interested in learning more about Office 365 solutions for your company?  Contact me – I’ll be happy to help.

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