Sunday, February 17, 2013

There is more to Office 365 than just suites

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I have started to come across more and more people who don’t seem to realise that you can purchase individual Office 365 components. This means if you just want basic email you can purchase Exchange Online Plan 1 (from around $4 per user per month) or if you want email with advanced features like Legal Hold and unlimited inbox then you can go for Exchange Online Plan 2 (from around $8 per user per month). The same holds true for SharePoint, Lync and even Office on the desktop (yes you can purchase just the latest Office desktop software via Office 365).

Typically, if you needs extend beyond just a single product, say email and collaboration, then that’s when the value of a suite becomes apparent but importantly, you don’t necessarily have to start there. Let’s say you just want basic email, you could purchase Exchange Online Plan 1. Then a few months down the track you get bitten by the SharePoint bug (if you haven’t yet you will), you can simply add that to your current Exchange Plan 1 in Office 365.

The individual components of Office 365 are currently offered under the Enterprise (E) licenses. Currently the cheapest suite offering is the Small Business and Professionals license (P) which offers the basic plans of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync (but no Office) rolled into a single package. The good thing about this P licenses is that it is great value for what you get. The bad thing is that it is not as flexible as the Enterprise or E plans. This means you can’t add features to the P license (say kiosk workers).

For that reason, it is my opinion that most businesses should only consider E licenses for the simple fact that it provides far more flexibility with the ability to easily add and remove features for individual users. P Plans are great provided the business is not planning to change much and is unlikely to want additional functionality.

I would still caution people about P plan even if they think they are unlikely to change. Why? Because chances are a change of circumstance will dictate a need to change down the track. If they have locked themselves into a P plan then migration is not easy. A good example is where a business decides on a P plan solely based on price. Down the track, if they find they need inboxes greater than the current 25GB limit in a P plan they can not simply add to their current offering as doing so is unsupported on P Plans. However, if they were instead over on an Enterprise (E) plan it would be simple process to effect this upgrade, even for just a single user.

For example, here’s the link to just the Exchange Online plans in Office 365

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/exchange-online.aspx#PlansAndPricingTable

If you are in Australia you’ll find them at:

http://www.telstra.com.au/business-enterprise/business-products/t-suite-software/microsoft-office-365/index.htm#mos

My experience with ANY technology is that you want to provide the maximum amount of flexibility because situations change. This should be EXACTLY the same when it comes to choosing Office 365 for your business. My advice is to just start with what you need and grow from there. This generally means moving to Enterprise (E) plans from the get go. They may be a little more expensive than the P plans but having that flexibility is well worth any small incremental cost. Trust me, you’ll find out what I mean if you don’t.