Microsoft Office 365 for Education Update

Microsoft have so far been very quiet regarding their Education offering of the Office 365 environment. However it has been recently announced that they will be starting to migrate their existing Live@EDU customers in the Spring or Summer 2012. This indicates that Microsoft will, at some point, later this year or early next year release a bit more information on the Education version of the service and it’s pricing. The pricing has yet to be officially unveiled.

RSS Feeds

RSS Feeds is a feature within SharePoint that we have not been able to quite understand how it works. RSS Feeds can be enabled on lists for example and then can be used in RSS Readers such as Microsoft Outlook. We have tried adding the RSS Feed created to Outlook with some success. However it did raise questions about whether you would continue to receive updates should you not be logged in to the Office 365 website. In theory we knew that you shouldn’t as the data is not public. We did test this by logging out and entering a new post using a different user account on another PC, this seemed to work and I did not receive the update in the RSS Feed. I expected at this point, when I logged back in to the Office 365 website that the RSS Feed would begin updating again with any new posts, but this did not seem to be the case. After waiting a while the new post did not appear in the RSS Feed and didn’t understand why. Later (probably half an hour to an hour) the new post then appeared in the RSS Feed. It’s behaviour was therefore difficult to understand. It light of this we decided to post a question to the Office 365 Community and await a response. We had previously read that RSS Feeds were not supported in the Small Business edition, however after looking more in to the feature directly on the website, managed to set up what appears to be a working Feed. At this stage we are however still a little unsure as to how they work.

Audience Targeting

Audience Targeting allows you to easily manage what users can see in terms of lists, list items and web parts etc. Currently within the University Audiences are used to direct content to either staff or students. This means that students only see what is relevant to them and staff only see what’s relevant to them. Within Office 365, it is not only possible to to apply this model to web parts and lists, but also individual items within a list. It is very easy to target a specific list item. When the item is added to the list, there is an additional field to add the target group, once added only this group will be able to view that particular item.

Audience Targeting is not a functioning feature within the Small Business edition of Microsoft Office 365, and therefore we have not been able to test this feature. It is only included as part of the Enterprise edition and above.

Office 365 Small Business and Enterprise

I have been working with Microsoft Office 365 Small Business version for 2 months now and I believe we have pretty much reached its limits.

As we are currently leaving migration until we are both back from our holiday we have been looking into more features of Microsoft office 365 that we might have previously missed, features such as RSS feeds, target audiences, info path lists, complex workflows and more. None of these appear to work in the small business edition, there appear to be a huge amount of restrictions that only allow us to do the simplest of task (no IT pro required). For us to continue with Microsoft Office 365 I believe we need to upgrade to the Enterprise edition, this will allow us to test features that may actually be useful to the University, it will also allow us to use features that even SharePoint 2003 currently use, such as target audience. To me, I believe that even Office 365 Small Business should be an improvement on SharePoint 2003 and not hold features back that would put 2003 ahead of small business.

So after we have looking into migration more closely and tested some of this, I believe we have no choice but to move up to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise edition, so we can test these useful features.


Quick Project Update

Just a quick project update. Following our first introduction session, we came away with a couple of areas we needed to look into, until this point these two areas had been overlooked. We have now covered Microsoft OneNote and InfoPath 2010, information on these can be seen in their own posts. Before moving on to anything major, we decided to review any other features that have been overlooked so far. We will be reviewing Office for Mac integration (starting with 2008 Version 12.3.0, later we will look at 2011 Version 14.0), Audience Targeting and RSS Feeds over the next day or so.