I am a HUGE fan of Microsoft’s suite of Office & Business suite – Business Productivity Online Suite – BPOS. For just $10 per user per month, I get Exchange, Sharepoint, Live Meeting and it all integrates smoothly with Microsoft Office.
This has saved me untold amounts of time and money compared to buying, installing, configuring and operating the equivalent services in-house.
Well, the news today just got even better! Microsoft today announced it is re-launching a significantly upgraded online business suite: “Office 365”.
Office 365 includes the long-awaited upgrade to Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, and also introduces Office Online and Microsoft Lync:
Introducing Microsoft Lync
Office 365 introduces Microsoft Lync Online – Microsoft’s latest and recently unveiled business server that integrates what used to be Office Communication Server and Live Meeting into one coherent business server product. Lync also sports a client application that replaces Office Communicator and the Live Meeting client.
Lync Online provides intuitive communications capabilities across presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling and a rich online meeting experience including PC-audio, video and web conferencing. Transform your interactions with colleagues, customers and partners from today’s hit-and-miss communication to a more collaborative, engaging, and effective experience.
As someone who lives and breathes in a virtual, interconnected world, Lync is a breath of fresh air!
Using Lync to collaborate on a document via video and voice-calls with colleagues
Importantly, the Lync Server product also offers enterprise-class PBX features enabling your business voice calls to be routed via VOIP if the callee is on a SIP-enabled VOIP system at the receiving-end too. We’ll have to see how deep the PBX features of Office 365 are, but if full PBX features are enabled, it could be a killer feature that dramatically decreases your business telephone costs and increase productivity!
You’re probably familiar with Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Outlook – the core of most business’ IT systems today.
Office 365 introduces Office Online – a version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that all run entirely within your browser so you can work on your documents even when you’re away from your normal PC or you’re using a PC (or Mac or even Linux) which doesn’t have Office installed!
Accessing Exchange email via Outlook Web Access
Working on an Excel document in Excel Online hosted in Internet Explorer
Office offline too!
In addition to Office Online, Office 365 includes an option to pay $24 per user per month for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office Online … but also gives you the right to install and use Office Professional Plus 2010! This is a killer suite and price point for the majority of businesses.
It’s not either or, it’s a continuum
One important point to get across is that, while others would have you believe otherwise, Microsoft truly does understands the reality of operating a business in these ever changing times.
If an entirely hosted infrastructure suits your business, then great, they’ve got an awesome offering for you. But if you have complex needs and need to host some of your own infrastructure in-house, then Office 365 will also suit you down to the ground, allowing you to push some of your selected services into the cloud, but retain other services that must remain hosted internally.
There are few cloud offerings that span the continuum from hosted entirely in-house to hosted entirely in the cloud, and every point in between.
“But surely, this costs a lot, no?”
Actually, no! Today, BPOS costs $10 per user per month. But Microsoft have just unveiled new pricing structure which benefits both larger customers as well as smaller clients. In true Microsoft fashion, Office 365 will come in several packages priced at different levels depending on the scope and features included:
At the very lowest end, the “Deskless Worker” edition, primarily targeted at the people within an organization that need access to email and documents, but little else, the price is dropping to $2 per user per month.
For smaller companies of 25 people or less, Office 365 “Lite” will be priced at $6 per user per month.
In Summary, Office 365 is a bargain!
$24 bucks a month per user per month for a world-class hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Communications and Collaboration platform with Office-online AND a full install of Office on your PC? AND you get to add/remove users as your business scales up and down and just pay for what you use.
Office 365 is a bargain!
For more details, visit the Office 365 website and sign up for the beta.
ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley also posted some more details on Office 365.