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SharePoint comes ready to use with built-in Team Site functionality. As with Exchange in Office 365, there is no separate server that needs installation. It’s included in the Office 365 package.
Collaboration features are familiar to those versed in the Exchange and SharePoint worlds. Team Site can be populated with individual site pages – for special projects or work groups, for example – and users can set their own controls about who can access their pages. It also integrates with the calendar and task features in Office 365, and provides a wiki-like Team Discussion creation tool that permits for separate discussion threads on separate topics.
Document sharing is provided, and with access control.
Throughout, Microsoft has built a familiar ribbon at the top of the Team Site page that guide customization of each page or discussion thread, and there appears to be no feature loss between the online version and the on-premise version of SharePoint.
Lync is the current product name for Microsoft Office Communication Services (OCS), so get used to the new branding if you have not yet.
Deploying this part of Office 365 allows for user-by-user management of file transfers, audio and video, domain federation and public IM connectivity. (This is done through a page of check boxes.)
Office 365 Customization
To a degree, Office 365 is not just a “take it or leave it,” or “one size fits all” offering. It does allow for creation of custom plans for an enterprise: either a deployment or pilot rollout; inclusion of Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Microsoft Office Professional Plus server capabilities; and feature-by-feature rollout on an individual schedule -- with a very granular console.
A New Model $6
For $6 per month, per user, Microsoft is working to simplify not just the deployment of IT but the monthly cost model as well. While some VARs may see this as a move that undercuts their own pricing or their own relationships with customers, others may very well be highly competitive with their own deployments of either on-premise or cloud-based versions of these products.
Still other solution providers may view Microsoft’s cloud-based bundling of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync services, with Microsoft Office tools, as a plus that will allow them to focus on other areas of a customer’s IT and business needs – including broader security, mobility, virtualization and data center architecture and management.
In any event, Microsoft is now putting a price to its productivity, messaging and communications in the cloud: $6 per month, per user. That may diminish a VAR’s pricing flexibility or create the need for additional conversations with a customer. Microsoft will, undoubtedly, have to work with its channel partners to make sure conflict is held to a minimum.
Microsoft In The Cloud
Microsoft has made no bones about the fact that it is aiming to put every, single piece of its product line in the cloud. It’s already done so, successfully, with apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint (via Office Live), as well as with its gaming platform, XBOX 360 Live.
While this has been trickier for Microsoft than, say, rival Google (because Google never had to change a business model from selling boxed software), Office 365 represents Microsoft’s boldest move to date into the cloud.
It very well could be Microsoft’s most successful product for IT since Windows XP. But it is a near certainty that it will change the rules for deploying enterprise software and, in the process, force its competitors to adapt as well.