Jerry Nixon @Work: Confused about Office 365?

Jerry Nixon on Windows

Monday, October 10, 2011

Confused about Office 365?


Well, I was sure confused – a little. When I heard a comment saying Office 365 was just the rebranding of BPOS and not simply HTML-version of Office, I freaked.

Well, it turns out that’s partly a perfect description, it is indeed the rebranding of BPOS (Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services) in the cloud. But it is also the HTML-based Office, and optionally a desktop license of Office 2010 Professional Plus (with the E3 pricing plan).

How does it differ from the Free Office Tools from SkyDrive?

That’s what I asked, too. I can already create Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents with SkyDrive and SkyDrive is free. Why would I want to pay for Office 365?

The truth is, the free stuff from SkyDrive is great and there’s barely a difference. What’s different is Exchange as your email. It’s not Windows Live Mail (which is arguably 90% as good), it’s Exchange. But you also get SharePoint, the world’s most superior online portal server. And remember when I said the HTML-based Office is almost 100% the same, the difference is that you access your SharePoint document libraries instead of random SkyDrive folders. That’s valuable.

As an aside, I would like to add that only 365 supports tools like Integro’s IEM to extend Exchange with an enterprise-level archiving and retention solution. There’s a REAL advantage to using an Exchange server and only 365 gives you those options along with the benefits of the cloud.

Should I get 365 then?

Probably not if it’s just you. 365 is geared to businesses. If you are a large business the prospect of off-loading storage, management, and backup are awesome savings. But if you are small business, you can get your business off the ground for pennies, compared to purchasing servers and Office licenses yourself, up front. But if you are a tiny business (you & your wife) you might consider playing with Windows Live – it’s bound to get you far for a while until you feel the pain and want to upgrade to 365.

This is the most simplified pricing web page I have found yet, see for yourself here. Here’s a snapshot of the grid you will see that steps you through the pricing options, E1, E2, E3, and E4. What’s the E for?