Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Mail Enabled Lists


Microsoft Sharepoint does so many things that there are 100’s of features used by only a subset of companies, but there are a number of features that are pretty key to the majority of Sharepoint organizations. To me, one of these is:

Mail Enabled Lists

Basically, this allows you to send emails to a list within Sharepoint and have it catalogue the mail and also store any attachments to that mail; I think that’s pretty cool!

This feature wasn’t available in BPOS and I discovered today it won’t be available in the soon to be released Office 365 either. I couldn’t really understand why as, on the face of it, mail enabled lists appear to be quite an easy feature to enable. I asked one of the Microsoft TSP’s today and also did a little Bing based research and have come up with something of an answer.

The official answer from Microsoft Corp. is:

“They are currently disabled due to performance, scalability, policy enforcement, data requirements and legal compliance issues that can affect Enterprise customers”

Looking into it further, I came across a post on Joel Oleson’s MSDN based blog on the subject of Mail Enabled lists which throws some more light onto the subject. He says:

“MS IT has been very cautious about their support for email enabled lists and specifically only supporting it on few isolated environments”

which I found very surprising. Luckily he goes on to answer my question – Why?

“Email enabled lists create contact objects in AD, it takes careful coordination to create these contact objects and ensure the proper write access to a specific OU. Imagine 500,000 lists all with the ability to be email enabled”

BPOS/Office 365 is a multi tenant setup, meaning there could be millions of lists in the cloud based Active Directory, many of which could have 1000’s of updates a day. That is quickly a huge overhead for the servers and infrastructure to cope with, potentially leading to a negative impact on the service Microsoft offer to their customers.

Hopefully in the future, Microsoft will enable this feature…perhaps with a maximum limit per company for number of lists/number of daily updates etc. However there is no word floating around the halls of any such move for the foreseeable future…

What are your thoughts – are mail enabled lists important to you? Would it stop you from moving to the cloud? Let me know in the comments Smile

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…

Lync Online & VoIP


Microsoft are readying Office 365, the new version of their Online Services offering, to be released within the next 3-4 months and one of the new features over it’s previous iteration, BPOS, is the inclusion of VoIP (Voice over IP) Audio.

However, due to certain licensing restrictions, it isn’t currently available in all countries that can use the Office 365 service. Below is a table showing the current standing for VOIP availability across the range of countries who have the beta.

image

I assume this is down to specific country laws as to what services you can provide before you’re classed as a Telecommunications Provider…surely an area MS don’t want to get into!

I have to say I’m surprised it will be available in the UK Smile

Microsoft Office 365 & BPOS


Microsoft made a big announcement today – Office is available online!

Yes Office Web Apps have been with us for a little while but they are lacking many features and, in the corporate world, you need a full Office licence on your desktop to use them. This however is “proper” online Office so, just like the original BPOS offerings such as Exchange & Sharepoint, it exists solely in the cloud…no on premise(s) software required.

There were also name changes, new products and new prices announced today so let’s take a look at the whole shebang!

Office 365

This is the new name for Microsoft’s cloud services, both existing and new. Family members include:

Office 365 Small Business

Office 365 for Enterprise (BPOS V2)

BPOS Government

Live@EDU

To be honest, I’m not really sure about the name. Maybe it will grow on me but for now at least, it feels a bit cheap and I’ve already seen people asking what happens on day 366 of a leap year Smile

Office 365 Small Business

This cut down version of Microsoft’s cloud offerings is, as the name suggests, aimed at small businesses with up to 25 users and offers:

  • Exchange Online
  • Sharepoint Online
  • Lync Online
  • Office Web Apps
  • External Web Site

for $6 per user per month.

Office 365 for Enterprise

BPOS V2 aka Union will be available in the first half of 2011, as per Mary Jo Foley’s info.

This will give companies:

  • Office Professional Plus
  • Exchange Online
  • Sharepoint Online
  • Lync Online
  • 24×7 Phone Support
  • On Premise(s) licences

It’s to be noted that the upcoming Wave 14 releases of the online products will introduce dozens of new features that make them much more compelling to businesses, such as the ability to federate Lync and host extranets on Sharepoint:

Read Microsoft BPOS- More new features

All this will cost just $24 per user per month – that is really amazing!

Availability

Beta testing across 13 countries has started, with beta sign up available at:

http://www.office365.com

If you can get it to load up for you – I’m having no luck!

Office365 will be available in 40 countries during 2011. It will then expand to include Dynamics CRM 2011 Online (a great product) and then a separate Educational focused offering will arrive, rolling into it Live@EDU.

Follow @Office365 for more info.

I’m already thinking of a number of our clients who will be very interested in Office Online but one question I have already been asked is:

“Can I get Office Online as a separate product?”

I don’t think so but I will check…

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