Microsoft Office 365 is made up of several components:
- Microsoft Exchange provides email, calendar and contact lists.
- Microsoft Office Plus allows Windows PC’s to run Office applications locally or from the cloud.
- Microsoft SharePoint allows documents, spreadsheets and presentations to be shared.
- Microsoft Lync Online allows instant messaging and online meetings.
Microsoft are to offer an edition of Office 365 for educational institutions, it will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises and in addition will be specifically tailored to meet the needs of educators, students and education partners. For students the service will be free, but there will be a charge for educators and staff if they opt for the use of SharePoint Online and Lync Online (this is free for students). Pricing for this version, as quoted by Mary Jo Foley in an article published on ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-details-packaging-pricing-for-office-365-for-education/8413) will be in the region of £7 to £9 per month per user, depending on the exact services opted for. There could also be a charge for students depending on services opted for, this will be in the region on £1 per month per user. This additional charge will be in force should Office Professional Plus be in use.
Office 365 for Education will include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, support for My Sites and site search capabilities.
This functionality would allow students participating in group projects to work together on documents in real time, rather than working on their own piece and then tying it all together at the end. This method often does not work as there is no good flow to the document.
Office 365 also allows group members to participate in a group chat, similar to that of Window Live Messenger, to discuss the work being undertaken.
Users will also be able to take advantage of social networking features such as, ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ to rate documents and other listings, which will help both staff and students recognise good learning materials. This over time will improve the quality of learning materials available on the site.
Students will also have access to Office Web Apps (OWA) for viewing, sharing and light editing of documents.
Microsoft is offering a 99.9% uptime guarantee inline with this service. That means that Office 365 should only be unavailable for 8.76 hours in any given year! This guarentee is also backed financially, whereby a percentage (maximum of 100%) of the subscriptions fee is refunded to the client should this target not be met.
While Office 365 components, like Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), offer a subset of the functionality of their on premise versions, they share the same code base and user interfaces, so they are familiar to end users.
In this manner, organisations can have hybrid cloud/on premise deployments of Microsoft collaboration, productivity and communications, depending on their preferences and requirements.
Before Office 365 is implemented, these points should be considered:
- Learn about the basic features and potential benefits of Microsoft Office 365 and how it lines up against the rest of the cloud-based application market.
- Find out how Microsoft plans to evolve Office 365, an increasingly important piece of its cloud strategy.
- Discover the realities and potential limitations of Office 365 and how IT professionals can best prepare for the greatest possible business outcome.
Office 365 is expected to be released in June 2011.