Office 365 review - Part 1: Overview and pricing

This first part of an eight part overview of Microsoft Office 365 explains what it is, what benefits it can bring and outlines Office 365 pricing.
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Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.
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Contents of this article

There’s been a lot of noise around the beta and subsequent launch of Microsoft’s Office 365 recently. Touted by some as late coming competition to Google Docs and by others as the best productivity cloud service on the planet there’s no doubt that O365 (as I’ll call it in this article) is a great improvement over the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS ).

Office 365 Pricing - Microsoft Online Services portal

In this eight part article we’ll look at what O365 is; the different plans that are available and then we’ll dive into the technical details of deployment, interoperability and capabilities. Further we’ll examine the different services that are part of O365; Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online.

The Microsoft Online Services portal combines the MS Online Administration Center and the MS Online Services Company Portal from BPOS into one web portal

Office 365 pricing

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first; Office 365 pricing, licensing and plans. O365 comes in three flavours: Small Business (the P or Professional plan), Enterprise (E plans, numbered 1 to 4) and Kiosk (K1 and K2). There’s also a plan for schools; Education (called K-12).

Let’s start with the Enterprise plans; these are all designed for Information Workers in medium to large corporations: E1 gives you Instant Messaging / Presence and Conferencing (Lync Online), Collaboration (SharePoint Online) and Email (Exchange Online) for $10 per month (all prices in USD). E2 adds Office Web Apps access at $16 per month. E3 gives you Excel, Access and Visio services in SharePoint, Voicemail and archiving of email as well as a subscription license to Office Pro Plus (Office 2010, running on the client machine) at $24 a month with E4 adding voice capabilities at $27 per month. All E plans give you a 25 GB mailbox.

Don’t be confused by Microsoft using the term “Office” for both the service and installed software. Office 365 is the service you pay for per month, per user, and Office Pro Plus is a version of Office 2010 that you install on end users machines that can save documents to SharePoint online.

For “kiosk” users, those who do non computer tasks in their jobs and only need occasional access to email and documents on shared computers there is K1 which gives web based access to Exchange email and SharePoint (read only) at $4 per month and then K2 which adds Office Web apps for document editing at $10 per month. Both K plans give you a 500 MB mailbox.

The P plan for small business (up to 50 users) gives you Instant Messaging / Presence and Conferencing (Lync Online), Collaboration (SharePoint Online as well as Office Web Apps) and Email (Exchange Online) for $6 per month along with a public facing simple website and a 25 GB mailbox.

Benefits of Office 365 ^

The premise for O365 is simple: small, medium and large businesses spend a big proportion of their IT budget running Exchange (the world’s most popular email system) and SharePoint (the world’s most popular collaboration platform) on premise today. Whilst email and collaboration services are essential to many businesses today there’s a lot of work involved; hardware has to be maintained, software patched, and upgrades planned and executed. Many corporations are on older versions due to the cost and complexity involved in upgrading. By moving to a cloud based service all the maintenance of the infrastructure goes away and the business simply pays a monthly fee for the service, provided by Microsoft with a financially backed Service Level Agreement (SLA).

O365 is based on Microsoft’s latest releases which were all developed with multi-tenant, hosted environments in mind; Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Lync 2010. And this is the greatest strength of O365, it’s not new software, it’s mature, tried and tested production systems, used today by hundreds of millions of users around the world, just offered in a different format: as a pay as you go service in the cloud.

Office 365 pricing - Language List

Office 365 is available in 21 languages and in 40 markets around the world

In the next part of this series we’ll look at how Office 365 is deployed, system requirements, what needs to be installed on the client, what Office Pro Plus is and how the Desktop Setup Tool is used as well as PowerShell integration.

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7 Comments
  1. avatar
    Stephen Boyd 6 years ago

    Would you know if Office 365 will partner with other ISPs apart from Telstra ?

    It is just an unbelievable decision by MS not to be ISP neutral.

    I'm guessing therefore there will be again substantial differences in prices between AU and US ?

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  2. avatar
    Stephen Boyd 6 years ago

    Thank you for the article. Would you know the following;

    1) What does it mean by Microsoft partnering with Telstra to offer Office 365. Does this mean only Telstra will provide it or does it mean it will be free on their network, ie, unmetered ?

    2) How much traffic does this generate ?

    I'd imagine that if the traffic is unmetered this type of solution would be hideously expensive probably more so when dealing with email attachments, is that a fair statement ?

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  3. avatar
    Paul Schnackenburg 6 years ago

    Hi Stephen,

    As I'm also in Australia, and the author of these articles I can comment on your comments. To clarify MS isn't limiting you to a particular ISP here in OZ, just that you can only buy BPOS / Office 365 through Telstra's TSuite program. Means you have to be a Telstra "reseller" to sell it but it wasn't that hard, I've been a BPOS reseller for the last year or so, it only took a couple of hours of paperwork. I don't think Office 365 / BPOS is unmetered on Bigpond.
    The traffic generated by Exchange and SharePoint online is definitely something to take into account, the guidance from MS that I mention in the last article (8) called "Office 365 Deployment Guide for Enterprises"
    http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=26509 talks about the necessary bandwidth. Yes, Office 365 will be dearer here in OZ compared to the US.

    For what it's worth I have raised the matter of Telstra being involved, with MS I think it's really weird that in every country in the world MS can handle the billing for its online services but here in OZ they had to go and partner with the one company that many small business consultants (myself included) have no respect for whatever. I don't expect the situation to change so roll with it. The service itself is a great solution for many small businesses and blows Google's stuff out of the water.

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  4. avatar
    Stephen Boyd 6 years ago

    Thanks for that. You can see form my post I am no friend of Telstra and they are no friend of education. I'd really like this to work, being a school money is always a thing we are trying to save on.

    I am also glad you put traffic consideration as there has been semi-recent stories of how University's have moved to either LIVE.EDU or Google and then found their traffic costs increase substantially.

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  5. avatar
    Raj 6 years ago

    looking forward for the next post in this series.. where i ll get to know more about Office365

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  6. avatar
    Chris128 6 years ago

    Thanks for this article, I've been wondering exactly what office 365 actually is for quite a while... all you get from MS is the marketing hype and no real details of what it actually includes. Looking forward to the next part

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  7. avatar
    Wayne Duguay 6 years ago

    Great job. We're looking to implement a newer version of Office and we're right into the process of trying to understand exactly what o365 does. This series of articles will be very usefull for us. Keep on you great job 4sysops.

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