Microsoft's "New Office 365" plan lineup for 2013 is pretty extensive, providing customers with many choices to consider. Since you cannot change plan families (more on this later), it is critical to be aware of a few subtle, but key details that differentiate the new plans from one another.
If you are unsure if moving to the Office 365 cloud is a good move for your organization, here are a few scenarios that often drive businesses to move to the Office 365 cloud:
- Using an older server and worried about its security and maintenance costs
- Growing in size and looking for technology to help meet your businesses mobility and collaboration needs
- Using outdated versions of Office, such as Office 2003, and experiencing and compatibility issues or concerns with end of support
Personally, I think a moving email to Office 365 is pretty much a no-brainer for just about any mid-size or small business - it's easy to cost justify, especially if you had plans to upgrade your on-premise Exchange Server in the near future.
The "New Office 365" plans revolve around the 2013 releases of their core business productivity server software: Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, as well as a monthly subscription model for the Microsoft desktop Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, etc.). The Office 365 cloud offerings provide good cross-browser and mobile support, as well as tighter integration with 2013 versions of the MS Office Suite and Sky Drive Pro.
There are a couple dozen items on the "New Office 365" menu which include both a-la-carte and bundled suites of cloud service offerings. Below I have shared a summary of the key features and distinguishing characteristics of the most popular and practical Microsoft cloud offerings. Please note that Microsoft frequently changes up their plans, so please click on the links below (or contact DMC) to confirm pricing and features before making any decisions.
Exchange Online ($4 per user/month): Exchange Online provides email services (up to a maximum of 50 GB per user mailbox), as well as the ability to share calendars and contacts with each other. Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013 all work well with Exchange Online, and the browser-based version of Outlook (a.k.a. Outlook Web Access) works great too. If you want to tackle the migration of existing email accounts yourself, I would recommend an email migration tool like MigrationWiz. You can contact DMC if you need help with your migration.
SharePoint Online ($3 per user/month): SharePoint Online is now bundled with SkyDrive Pro (keep reading for more information) and includes the Document Management, Team Site Collaboration, Intranet, Search, Workflow, Wikis, Discussion Boards, etc. that have been part of the platform for quite a while (roughly equivalent to on-premise SharePoint 2013 Standard Edition). The monthly fee includes pooled storage (10 GB to start + 500 MB per user; 100 users would have a pool of 60 GB -> 10 GB + 100*500 MB). You can add pooled storage to SharePoint for only 20 cents per GB.
Lync Online ($5.50 per user/month) – I like to think of Lync Online as Instant Messaging on steroids. It includes Instant Messaging, Presence (integrated with SharePoint and Exchange), Skype, Lync to Lync calling, Desktop Sharing and the ability to conduct Web-based Meetings.
SkyDrive Pro (Free with any plan that includes SharePoint): SkyDrive Pro is a business version of Microsoft's individual cloud-based SkyDrive storage offering (which is very similar to Apple iCloud, Google Drive, and Drop Box). Each user receives 25 GB of personal storage (not pooled) that can be accessed from pretty much any Internet-connected device. This is loosely equivalent to on premise SharePoint MySites. You CANNOT add storage at this time.
Office 365 E1 Plan ($8 per user/month): This bundle includes Exchange, SharePoint (10 GB + 500 MB/user pooled together), Lync, SkyDrive Pro, and Office Web Apps (browser-based Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote). This is probably the most popular bundle. The E1 plan DOES allow you to add pooled storage to SharePoint for only 20 cents per GB.
Office 365 Midsize Plan ($15 per user/month): This plan is designed for businesses with less than 250 employees (there is a hard limit of 300 users) and includes pretty much everything I've mentioned so far – Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, SkyDrive Pro, Office Web Apps, PLUS the full MS Office Desktop Application Suite (Word, Excel PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Access on up to 5 devices for each user). You can now add pooled storage for SharePoint for 20 cents per GB.
Office 365 E3 Plan ($20 per user/month): The E3 plan includes everything and there is no limit on the number of users – Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, SkyDrive Pro, Office Web Apps, PLUS the full MS Office Desktop Application Suite (Word, Excel PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Access on up to 5 devices for each user). ALSO... you get the rough equivalent of the on-premise SharePoint Enterprise features (minus a couple business intelligence features), as well as online email archiving for Exchange Online. You can add pooled storage for SharePoint for 20 cents per GB.
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, it is REALLY IMPORTANT to know that you can transition your account within plan families (e.g. from Office 365 Enterprise E1 to Office 365 Enterprise E3, and from a-la-carte Exchange Online or SharePoint Online to E1 or E3), but you CANNOT transition between Office 365 Midsize Business and an Office 365 Enterprise plan (or vice versa). In order to change from a plan in one family to another, you must first cancel your account with the plan you currently have, and then sign up for a different one. Having to switch plan families and move your data would be a big pain in the neck so choose your plan wisely.
If you would like some help migrating to one of the "New Office 365" services, my team would welcome the opportunity to help you - just contact us. We also have an Office 365 Video Series that explains some of the benefits & drawbacks and allows you to see Office 365 in action.
Learn more about DMC's Office 365 services.