Blackberry Cloud Services Launches for Microsoft Office 365


This is great news. Microsoft’s Office 365 Online Services can once again play nicely with RIMs Blackberry mail service.

“BlackBerry Business Cloud Services is available at no additional charge to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Plan subscribers. This secure service, hosted by Research In Motion (RIM), directly links Microsoft® Exchange Online with BlackBerry smartphones to offer reliable, mobile access to synchronized email, calendar, contacts, tasks and memo pads.”

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The previous iteration of Microsoft Online Services had a chargeable BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) element hosted by MS which, after a little while became free of charge.

In the run up to Office 365 being launched, the decision was made that RIM would take over hosting the Blackberry services which seemed sensible to me. The odd part is that Office 365 went live in July 2011 but RIM said it would be at least 6 months until they were ready.

This led to a scenario where many people were “waiting until BES arrives” before genuinely evaluating Office 365, particularly in the mid-market space. It’s great to see that this is available and will give our teams another great thing to talk about with our clients Smile

Go and find out more info here:

http://us.blackberry.com/business/software/cloudservices/

and/or grab the Technical PDF, which compares the different flavours of Blackberry Services here:

View the Feature and Technical Overview

Office 365 Blackberry Beta Available


Microsoft Office 365, their updated online services offering, added many new features over the previous version known as BPOS. The big changes included using the 2010 servers (rather than 2007, making Office Pro Plus available as a monthly subscription and removing Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) functionality.

The latter wasn’t as well received as all the other changes and was due to RIM (Research in Motion, the developers of Blackberry) taking charge of that piece of the infrastructure. BPOS has just changed to offering the BES functionality free of charge and business continuing on that platform (while they prepped their existing infrastructure such as upgrading from Office 2003) can still use the Microsoft provided BES functionality. Companies taking up a fresh Office 365 subscription and/or upgrading from BPOS to the new offering however, are not able to take advantage of hosted Blackberry Enterprise Server at this current time…from Microsoft or RIM.

This has kept a number of customers from migrating over to Office 365, especially as RIM stated it won’t be available until December 2011! There is now good news and bad news:

Bad News: RIM now say it will be January 2012

Good News: There is now a beta of the service available

To get the beta service up & running:

To enable your Microsoft Office 365 for BlackBerry service:

  1. An administrator must login to http://portal.microsoftonline.com and click on Setting up email on mobile phones under Resources
  2. Click Enable Hosted BlackBerry® services from Research In Motion®
  3. Agree to the information sharing agreement
  4. From the Microsoft Online Services Admin Overview, click Manage under Hosted BlackBerry® services from Research In Motion®
  5. Once the open beta is live you will be able to configure and activate desired BlackBerry devices

Once that is done, and you click on “Manage” in your Office 365 portal, you will be redirected to:

http://www.blackberry.com/beta/businesscloud

to nominate your company for participation in the beta.

Microsoft Exchange Online & Blackberry


Microsoft BPOS, the online versions of Exchange, Sharepoint et al has offered a Hosted Blackberry service for around 12 months now and it’s been pretty popular. The vast majority of organizations that use Exchange also use RIM’s Blackberry’s so offering them a way to push that off to the cloud certainly made the adoption of Exchange Online an even easier deal to sell. It was a pretty cost effective solution too, at £6/$10 per user per month.

As BPOS is soon transitioning to Office 365, with new versions of the MS software available in the cloud, there is also a change happening to the Blackberry service…well actually two changes.

1) The service will move over to be hosted, managed & supported by RIM.

2) The monthly cost is changing to £0/$0

That’s right, the service is going to become a free value add from Microsoft and not only that, it will be better than the current offering! From an email Microsoft sent to customers and partners this morning:

“administrators will be able to create and manage more device policies, change device passwords and settings, and search across large numbers of BlackBerry users at one time.”

The monthly cost is also changing for current customers right now, enabling them to take advantage of the zero cost straight away. This is a significant cost saving for companies, as an example – an organization with 150 Blackberry users would look like this:

£6 x 12 months x 150 users = £10,800 per annum

This move from Microsoft instantly saves almost £11,000 a year in the example above, and 150 BB users isn’t a particularly large installation either. Companies could/should use that money to invest in other areas of infrastructure…they could add Sharepoint Online for those users and still have nearly a 50% saving!

Current Customers

Current Blackberry Online subscriptions are being terminated on June 30, 2011 so if you’re currently using the Blackberry Online Service, there are steps that must be taken to ensure continuous service.

  1. Log in to Microsoft Online: Go to the Microsoft Online Customer Portal and log into your Microsoft Online account.
  2. Locate the Hosted BlackBerry service offer: Click Manage Subscription, choose an active BPOS or Exchange Online subscription*, select Buy Hosted BlackBerry from the Actions dropdown, and click Go.
    * This can be the same BPOS or Exchange Online subscription with which Hosted Blackberry was last purchased.
  3. Checkout: In the Shopping Cart, enter your total required number of Hosted BlackBerry seats** and accept the Hosted Blackberry Service Terms of Use (checkbox). Click Update, then click Checkout. The new $0/user/month pricing for all of your current seats for the Hosted BlackBerry service takes effect at new agreement signature. All users under the old terms of use are now covered by the new terms of use regardless of the user count entered.
    ** At a minimum, customers should enter the number of Hosted BlackBerry licenses in use today across all existing Hosted BlackBerry subscriptions. This number is visible in the Hosted BlackBerry Administration Console which is a part of the Microsoft Online Administration Portal.
  4. Cancel the old subscription(s): To cancel your previous subscriptions and avoid being billed for the Hosted BlackBerry service as of your next billing cycle, you must cancel any previously existing subscriptions through a Service Request, either by phone or through the service request form in your Microsoft Online Administration Console (MOAC). Service use will continue uninterrupted after cancelling the old subscriptions.

Bad News

The good news is that organizations can save £1000’s per year but there is some bad news. Unfortunately, RIM aren’t going to have the new platform ready for the General Availability (GA) of Microsoft Office 365; it will be “beginning in late 2011” according to Microsoft.

We’ve been told that companies on Office 365 will be unable to use Hosted Blackberry until the RIM platform is complete, so perhaps some 6 months after Office 365 becomes available. I am yet to get 100% clarification on this point but it appears this means that existing BPOS & Hosted Blackberry users must choose:

Stay on the BPOS platform with Hosted Blackberry for a further 6 months

or

Move to the new Office 365 platform and lose Hosted Blackberry for around 6 months

Not an ideal situation for anyone so I am looking to get more clarification around this ASAP and will update here. My hope is that although they are terminating subscriptions, Microsoft will keep their platform running for existing customers until such time that RIM get their act together…

Microsoft BPOS July Service Update


Microsoft’s BPOS updates usually bring great features and July 2010 is no different:

Hosted Blackberry Admin Centre:

While Microsoft have offered Blackberry hosting for a while, most of the admin features required you to raise a ticket with support. Now however you will be able to:

  • Add/Delete users from licences
  • Activate Devices
  • Perform Remote Wipes

all through the portal. This makes Microsoft’s Blackberry offering much more attractive.

You will also be able to increase your number of Blackberry licences via the portal, removing the need for paper orders. Decreasing now just requires a support request.

Live Meeting LifeCycle:

The Live Meeting client will now be supported for 18 months from release, and there are quarterly releases of the (free) client.

There is also a new version of the Live Meeting Outlook Add-in which goes about:

  • Improving the ability for users to respond to access control prompts when sharing control for Application Sharing.
  • Retaining the scheduled meeting on the Office Live Meeting service when an attendee has been removed from an invitation created by the Outlook Add-in.
  • Displaying invitees’ tracked responses for recurring meeting series that were converted to Office Live Meeting via the Add-in.

The Microsoft Online Services Blog is here:

Service Update- July 2010 Release Availability, Features Announced

BPOS & Blackberry


Microsoft BPOS has support Blackberry linking for a while, but for the full BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) experience, users were required to purchase the Blackberry licences separately. Not any more as

“Microsoft Online Services is now a BlackBerry® certified partner and BlackBerry Alliance Elite Member”

which gives us “Microsoft Online Services Hosted BlackBerry service”.

Microsoft will:

· Host and operate BlackBerry Enterprise Server

· Provide all BlackBerry Enterprise Server server, client licenses and support services Included in the service (There is no need for customers to provide licenses or service agreements.)

· Provide technical support to the customer’s IT administrators, including interfacing with RIM on troubleshooting as needed

The 3rd point there is a pretty attractive reason to go with this solution…as it gives you one port of call to troubleshoot your online services and your RIM infrastructure.

The features include:

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Pricing

“The Hosted BlackBerry Service is purchased and billed separately from Exchange Online Standard or the Business Productivity Online Suite Standard from Microsoft Online Services. It is a separate month-to-month auto-renewing agreement. Pricing is U.S.$10.00 per user per month with no minimum number of users required.”

There is a 30 day trial available so you can give it a whirl.

This is a good move on Microsoft’s part, positioning themselves as a more central pillar of a customer’s infrastructure and recognizing that Blackberries are here to stay. It’s good to see them embracing that rather than attempting to fight/ignore the competition as they might have done a few years ago.

You can see the full post here.

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