Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thinking about Office365 – Part 1

As the public release of Office365 draws closer I’m going to start doing more posts on Office365 and the impact for small to medium businesses. I’ll try and provide a balanced view, the good and the bad as I see it. However, remember at this stage please remember that Office365 is still in beta and the things can change. Caveat emptor.

 

So let’s start off with the proposed subscription plans. The major two SKU’s for SMB will be the P and E plans (the K is for Education) as shown below.

 

From (http://360on365.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/e-family-plans.jpg?w=450&h=342)

 

From (http://www.zdnet.com/photos/microsoft-office-365-is-there-a-plan-and-pricepoint-thats-right-for-you/6206586?tag=photo-frame;get-photo-roto)

 

Now the P plan is aimed squarely at the SMB market and contains a number of points to note. The most important as far I can see:

 

- No advanced SharePoint features such as Visio, Forms and Excel services. However Access services is included.

 

- Doesn’t include the ability to sync Active Directory via ADFS. This leads to another observation I have around SBS 2011 Essentials in a forthcoming post.

 

- A single SharePoint site to which you can’t add additional space, aside from what you get with user licenses. It does have a number of templates and quick design features not available in other plans.

 

- No Office Professional Plus subscription. Thus, people on these plans will need to furnish their own version of Office on the desktop typically. It does however come with Office Web Apps allowing you do some work with Office documents in a web browser.

 

- No advanced Exchange options such as archiving and legal hold.

 

- Limit of 50 users.

 

- ‘Community support’. That seems to indicate help is only available via forums and blogs. That is probably a very good things for resellers as it provides a real opportunity for them to step in and handle support for a customer.

 

- However, most importantly, it is my understanding that you can’t easily upgrade from P to E plans.

 

The apparent redeeming feature of P plans will be they are cheap (apparently around $6 a license). Looking at what you get for that amount of money it certainly represents value to many smaller businesses.

 

However, to my of thinking the E plans are a much better bet as you can not only easily upgrade as required but you can also mix and match. Thus, power users can get E3 plans (including Office Professional Plus) while road warriors can have the E1 plans. The E plans also allow customers to integrate their Active Directory via ADFS if they want (although I wouldn’t be recommending that in the SMB space for reasons I’ll make clear in a future post).

 

Even if the E3 plans are around the $25 mark per user I feel they represent better value and flexibility to most progressive small to medium businesses looking to take maximum advantage of all the features Office365 can provide.

 

For this reason, I’ll be focused on selling E plans (especially E3 with Office Professional Plus) across every business I deal with. P plans certainly have their place but I don’t like the fact that they appear to lock you into a solution that won’t allow more options.

 

Watch out for more posts on Office365 coming soon.