Collaboration

10 reasons why Microsoft Office 365 rocks

Office 365 is bringing together Microsoft's various online productivity tools, from email to Web Apps to communications services. Deb Shinder explains why she thinks this suite is a winner.

Microsoft has released a beta of its new and improved online productivity suite, Office 365. It comes in two editions, small business and enterprise, and makes it easy and cost effective to go "into the cloud" without giving up the familiar Microsoft server and client applications. Expected to be released in final form in 2011, Office 365 will include email, collaboration, presence/communications (IM and audio/video calls and conferencing), and both Office Web Apps and (in the enterprise edition) Office 2010 Professional Plus. Here are a few reasons that industry commentators such as Paul Thurrott are saying Microsoft got it right this time.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Security

Starting with one of the most important factors in choosing a cloud service, security has been the big stumbling block for many companies considering moving to the cloud. Microsoft's online services have been designed with security in mind. Office 365 applications are accessed through 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption so that if a transmission is intercepted by someone without authorization, they won't be able to read it. Antivirus signatures are kept up to date, and security measures are applied in accordance with the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing initiative. Exchange Online uses Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) to protect mail messages from malware, and it uses anti-spam filtering and antivirus with multiple virus engines.

The Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is applied to Microsoft Online Services development, deployment, and maintenance. Microsoft monitors the systems continuously for suspicious activity and has a robust incident response protocol in place. Microsoft also does regular security audits. You can read more about the security of Microsoft Online Services in this whitepaper.

2: Reliability

After security, the most commonly mentioned area of concern regarding cloud services is reliability. Downtime means lost worker productivity and ultimately costs companies money. Microsoft Online Services provides a service level agreement (SLA) and has a 99.9 percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft has multiple datacenters, located all over the world, hosting redundant network architecture. If there is an outage at one datacenter, another can act as a backup. Customers hosted by the first datacenter are transferred to another, with as little service interruption as possible.

3: Compliance

Compliance with government and industry regulations is a big deal in today's business world. Microsoft Office 365 services have been certified as compliant with ISO 27001 standards, completed SAS70 Type I and II audits, and achieved the EU Safe Harbor seal. Microsoft has also added controls for helping customers comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

4: Compatibility

In today's economy, many companies can't upgrade all of their desktop systems to the latest operating system. That's not necessary to use Office 365. Microsoft Online Services supports not only Windows 7 and Vista (SP2), but also Windows XP SP3. Even XP Home edition or Media Center edition can be used, although it doesn't support federated identity. Mac users can also access the Office 365 applications, using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

The online Web portal for administration works with Internet Explorer 7 or later, Mozilla Firefox 3.x, or Apple Safari 3.x. The Outlook Web App can also be accessed with any of those browsers or with Google Chrome 3 and later versions.

5: Up-to-date versions

With Office 365, companies and their users get all the features and functionality of the very latest versions of Microsoft's server products. The services run on Exchange 2010 SP1, SharePoint 2010, and Lync. Client software is Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows (Communicator for Mac), and the enterprise edition includes the licensing for Office 2010 Professional Plus.

6: Single sign-on

Assuming your network is running Server 2008 Active Directory on-premises, you can configure Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to achieve single sign-on, so that users can log on to the domain and be automatically authenticated to Office 365.

7: Exchange Online

Exchange Online gives you the benefits of Exchange Server 2010 without the cost and overhead of deploying it in-house. User mailboxes up to 25 GB are supported (administrators can reduce the capacity on a per-user basis), and personal archives provide more storage space. Attachments up to 25 MB are allowed. Users can restore deleted items, including items deleted from the Deleted Items folder. Even if an item has been permanently deleted or manually purged, it can be recovered if you enable Single Item Recovery (disabled by default). And if you, as administrator, delete a user, you can request that the mailbox be recovered for 30 days after the deletion.

Users connect to Exchange Online via Outlook 2007 or 2010, with such features as Outlook Anywhere (RPC-over-HTTP) and Cached Exchange Mode. With Outlook 2010, you get all the new Exchange 2010 features, such as conversation view, ignore, MailTips, personal archive, protected voicemail, and voicemail preview.

Users can also connect via Outlook Web App if they don't have the Outlook client installed, over any of the most popular Web browsers. There is a Light version that supports older and alternative browsers.

Mac users can use Microsoft Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition (free update for those who use Entourage 2008). IMAP and POP access are supported, and Exchange Active Sync for mobile devices (Windows phones, Palm devices, iPhone/iPad, and some Android and Nokia devices) is also supported.

8: SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online makes collaboration easy. You get 500 MB of storage per user account with a storage quota of up to 100 GB per site collection. Your company can have up to 1 TB total storage. Your SharePoint sites work with all Microsoft Office 2010 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, InfoPath, SharePoint Designer, and SharePoint Workspace. Sites can be accessed via IE 7/8, Firefox 3, or Safari 3.1.2 and through mobile devices including Windows Mobile 6.5.x, Windows Phone 7, Apple iPhone 2.0 and above, and Nokia E and N series.

With Microsoft Office 2010 applications and SharePoint Online, two or more users can edit the same document at the same time. If you don't have Office installed, you can use Office Web Apps to work with your documents in a Web browser. Also supported is PowerPoint broadcasting, which lets you broadcast your slide shows across the Internet even to people who don't have PowerPoint. And you can manage documents offline and have everything automatically synchronized back to the server when you reconnect -- a big plus for those who worry that cloud computing means being unable to get work done if you don't have an Internet connection.

Your SharePoint sites are protected against viruses and malware by Forefront Security for SharePoint.

9: Lync Online

Lync Online is the communications service component of Office 365. You can also purchase it as a standalone service, for providing users with instant messaging, audio and video calling between PCs (PC to PSTN calling is in the works but won't be available at release), Web conferencing, and presence. With the Lync 2010 client software (available at no extra charge), users can send IMs (the text of which is encrypted) and display presence status and monitor presence status of others. Lync integrates with Outlook so users can find and communicate with others from within Outlook ("click to communicate"). Presence information can also be updated based on Exchange calendar information, and it integrates with SharePoint Online. Users can also transfer files during IM conversations.

Users can connect to Lync Online directly over the Internet (without having to be on the corporate network via VPN or RAS), but file transfer is not available in that situation. Thanks to the federation feature, users can also IM people in other organizations that use Lync Online or host their own on-premise Lync servers. This requires that a federated relationship be set up by the administrators in both companies.

Users can attend online meetings with audio, video, and Web conferencing using the Lync client or using a phone with a PSTN audio conferencing service. Data sharing, including desktop and application sharing, whiteboard capability, and document sharing, is supported.

10: Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps is part of Office 365, but it doesn't take the place of the full-featured Office applications; it supplements them. For sophisticated document creation and manipulation, you need a rich local application. But there are times when you're away from your Office-equipped computer and need to do a quick edit. That's where Web Apps come in. No matter where you are or what computer you're using, you have access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and you can create or edit content and post it to your SharePoint site or save it in your SkyDrive folder.

You get the same familiar interface you're used to with traditional Office applications, and documents display the same way they do in the desktop apps. You can even view files on many popular mobile devices, including Windows phones, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, and devices with Opera Mobile 8.65 or Openwave 6.2 and later.

Supported file types include both older Office formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) and the new XML-based formats (.docx, xlsx, pptx). Users can print Word documents and multiple users can edit a document simultaneously.

Bonus reason: A (somewhat) catchy name

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but when it comes to tech products, monikers matter. Even though folks made fun of the iPad's name, I wonder if it would have caught on as quickly if it had been named "Apple Tablet" (or "Newton"). Microsoft is notorious for boring product names, and certainly BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), the predecessor to Office 365, was one of those. The new name for the improved service is at least shorter, a little catchier, and actually means something (365-days-per-year availability...  although it does make one wonder what happens on leap years).


About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

33 comments
NathanJobs
NathanJobs

Microsoft's cloud Office 365 is more expensive than the on-premise Office 2013 when you for instance calculate the ProPlus options over a 3 year+ product migration lifecycle.  Do the maths and don't be fooled by monthly rental costs!

areels
areels

365 is like $14 per user/mo if i have 50 users, then i will spend $25.000 for 36 months. i can buy office 2010 for $25.000 and use forever instead of 36 months. We do not use office cause we like it. We use it because there is no alternative to do the job, so there is no point of upgrading.

dreamer2222
dreamer2222

Ms Office - proprietary pile of *arbage. What's important to me - is how fast I can do my work. I can do my work way faster with open office and Libre office. Why? - because they don't change interfaces for the sole purpose of selling it as a new product.

It's not available. Looks like Microsoft's marketing department is ahead of the engineering team.

carlsf
carlsf

Security is a major issue, and I dont trust Microsoft. COST also as I havt been able to get any??

bgmuller
bgmuller

A couple of thoughts ... Is your commentary a little dated? In #7 you mention Entourage 2008 with EWS but now (recently albeit) Outlook 2011 is a very good option with hosted Exchange 2010. I'm concerned about the 500 MB limit for data in #8. Live@Edu accounts currently have 25 GB in SkyDrive and when they're moved to Office 365, it was our unwritten understanding that they would still have 25 GB storage. Are you sure of this particular fact?

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Hmm, reading your list of security enhancements, it boils down to SSL, and managing the servers the way they SHOULD be managed, with antivirus, etc. Not sure I see this as a differentiator.

libskrap
libskrap

Seems like it might be worth considering if it has a price that makes it worth considering. And, some guarantee that the price would not change over some very long, reasonable time period. you have to figure that to use it, you will need to look at what will happen to your network, internet connections, etc. when everybody starts their Monday morning reports at 7:55 am on Monday.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

While you assume that Office365 relates to [i]"365-days-per-year availability"[/i] We must remember that we are talking about MS. It could mean you can use it 365 times before re-licensing, it could mean it will run for 365 days but you are never sure WHICH 365 days it will be, or it could mean that after 365 days, you need to add upgrades one day at a time. :)

seanferd
seanferd

and replace the entire 365 promo site with it. One comprehensive, inclusive and quickly loading article as opposed to endless links of mostly wasted pages. Or MS could just hire you as a sensibility-in-marketing-presentation consultant.

stupid user name
stupid user name

Hmmm. I wonder if Office 365 will work on Feb 29, 2012? Or would you need to purchase an Office 366 upgrade?

tom
tom

Office 365 isn't MS Office, so I'm not sure it compares with Libre office. It's kind of apples and oranges. Nothing against MS Office competitors, just that this article isn't about MS Office.

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

Which is much the same with previous versions of the servers...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Unless MS has country specific data centers, your also storing your internal data externally under US law. Ms has no reason to fight for your privacy when a fed apears with threatening talk and no warrant. (along with the several other security considerations of course)

cham
cham

And will it work on the 366th day?

BlazNT2
BlazNT2

I think they already hired him. This reads as a advertisement pure and simple. I have noticed this a lot more on this site. I have lost my trust in TechRepublic lately. This comment was sponsored by My Company :)

joan.wongof 365advisor
joan.wongof 365advisor

Microsoft announced the worldwide availability of Office 365 on June 28,2011. It's very excited for users all around the world. Go there www.365advisor.com and you will have big surprise???

jfuller05
jfuller05

It all sounds OK, but I wonder how new versions work? Will the next Office version be free, just download it like an update? :) Who am I kidding right?

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

Don't quite get the joke. It's a service therefore it's always up-to-date... If you compare this offering to a GAP offering I cannot see why anyone would choose a GAP option. Office Web Apps... Online Hosted... familiar tools users are use to... Sorry - cannot understand the hate, then again, this is TechRepooblic.

seanferd
seanferd

Or you will cause airplanes to drop from the sky, the power grids to go down, and all the nuclear missiles to launch. :p

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

Microsoft is still governed under US Law. In fact any business doing business in the US is applicable to US Law FYI.

sector
sector

Just followed your link which took me to an online calculator for using the previous version. The cost for a 40 user company with almost all options (didn't choose CRM app option though)works out to about $34/user/mo. - almost the $1/user/day ball park....or $365/user/year - DOH!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

YOU should have read the EULA, you DO read those, right? LOL :D

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

http://www.docs.com Consumer = free Business = charge Webapps only = less Full Office = more Webapps capabilities = less Full Office = more

seanferd
seanferd

Hate? Obviously, you do not get the joke whatsoever. a) How many days are in a year? b) How many days are in a leap year? c) What problems have we had when date fields and the method for determining the date become ambiguous and do not well enough represent the date? It may not be terribly amusing - a bit overly corny for you perhaps - but the "hate" comment says more about you than about the person to which you are responding.

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

You are obviously looking at the most comprehensive package which is... Office Pro Plus Office Web Apps Exchange Online SharePoint Online Lync Online Compare a company acquiring perpetual pricing and well... Office 365 is a better deal. Then there's E1, E2 pricing which is significantly less. If you are a 40 user company and don't need Office Pro Plus, don't need Active Directory Sync, have an ActiveSync device like a WP7, iPhone, or Android phone you can buy it for $6 a month which includes everything except the above items. $6x12 = $72... $22 more than something like GAP which gives you a whole of a hell lot less then Office 365.

melias
melias

that will lower the cost somewhat from there. You never get the REAL price until you talk to a rep.

jessiethe3rd
jessiethe3rd

*slaps-head* doh... okay that was FAIL for me.

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