With Office 365 hitting the streets Tuesday, there has been a lot of interest expressed by partners and I have had more questions show up in my inbox than at any other time. I thought these questions from one email by a partner were fairly representative and that all of you could benefit from me sharing the answers. I realize that many partners are up to speed on these things, but based on my interactions around the country in the past month I have found the majority of partners lacking in depth of knowledge around the solution.
Here are the questions….
Q: Does a customer have to work with a local reseller (partner) to subscribe to or migrate to Office 365?
A: No, partners do not have to be involved at all. The contract is between Microsoft and the customer. You need to supply your value prop here (migration/integration assistance) etc. you do want to associate yourself as partner of record to get paid. You will want to go to www.microsoftcloudpartners.com and get signed up. The Partner Readiness Checklist is here. A detailed walkthrough guide is located here.
Q: If we use SharePoint to keep our documents, is that storage in the cloud or local?
A: Office 365 includes SharePoint ONLINE. SharePoint Online would keep the documents stored in our datacenters in the cloud. Other SharePoint solutions would be partner hosted, or on prem. Keep in mind SharePoint Online (or hosted) housing large files (CAD/CAM, Media, etc) is not necessarily a good idea. Bandwidth/latency, and storage cost concerns abound (SharePoint Online comes with 10GB plus 500 MB per user. So large files can wipe that out fast. Additional storage is 2.50 per GB per month for SharePoint Online.. You can find out all the necessary info for SharePoint Online by reading the service description here, or by heading to this site.
Q: If we use Lync Online, what is in the cloud and what is on premise?
A: Lync Online is IM presence, chat/ peer to peer voice, video, conferencing and desktop sharing, web presentations, etc. Not much is “stored” in the service, save an uploaded decks, handouts for conferences, etc. and that is only temporary. See the service description.
Q: Can you customize Office 365 and integrate with other application? Like if we did a hosted CRM solution, can you integrate with Lync Online, SharePoint Online, etc.?
A: The Office 365 standard implementation is multi-tenet. Due to this some capabilities in the area of customization do not exist. No server side code in SharePoint for example. We consider it “configurable”. If a high degree of customization is needed, a partner hosted or on premise solution might be better. As far as CRM is concerned. We integrate with Microsoft CRM and CRM Online fine. The service description for SharePoint Online has further details. Pertinent pastes are below:
With Office 365, developers can upload custom code to their SharePoint Online environment with the new Sandboxed Solution feature inherited from SharePoint 2010, plus the use of Silverlight and the client object model. Improvements in SharePoint Designer also provide the ability to customize SharePoint Online applications.
SharePoint Online offers developers a flexible, robust framework for customizing and developing solutions for use in the Office 365 environment. The development features and patterns you use in developing for SharePoint Online are a subset of those available for developing for SharePoint 2010 on-premises.
The following customization strategies are available to SharePoint Online developers:
· Configuration by using the browser . Customizations that you can perform by using the SharePoint Online user interface in your browser. For example, you can edit page layouts, add and customize the default Web Parts, add lightweight Microsoft Silverlight widgets to a page, or embed jQuery code in a Content Editor Web Part. Because in-browser configurations are primarily performed by end users, they are outside the scope of this article. For more information for enterprises, see the SharePoint Online Planning Guide for Office 365 Beta for Enterprises. For more information for small businesses, see SharePoint Online Planning Guide for Office 365 Beta for Small Businesses.
· Customization by using SharePoint Designer. Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 is a web and application design program you can use to design, build, and customize your websites within SharePoint Online. With SharePoint Designer 2010, you can create data-rich webpages, build powerful no-code workflow-enabled solutions, and design the appearance and behavior (look and feel) of your site. Customizations that you can perform in SharePoint Designer are generally declarative, and can also employ client-side scripting.
· Developing SharePoint Online solutions that contain custom code. To enable more technically complex solutions, SharePoint Online provides both server and client object models for developers. Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 provides a range of specialized templates for creating sandboxed solutions that contain a variety of SharePoint items, such as site and list definitions, workflows, Web Parts, event receivers, and content types, to include in your SharePoint solutions.
You may want to check the SharePoint Online Developer Resource Center for more info.
Q: Is the contract month to month?
A: That depends on what you sign up for. The enterprise (E plans, most common for customers) have a 1 year term . the P1 plan (small business maxed at 50 seats) can be canceled at any time. With any plan you can “trial”. please do this as you can convert a trial to a subscription, thus having a 30 window to decide. There is a purchase and support guide document that details cancelations for the Small Business Plan (P1). It can be found here.
Q: If we aren't happy with Office 365 can we get out of the contract and get our data back?
A: We have a data portability guarantee. You can get it out, but that is the customer’s responsibility. Third party migration tools are best for moving stuff both ways (cost involved). The data is going to be in email and in document libraries. There are numerous ways to archive email third party or to migrate email. Likewise, SharePoint Online Content and metadata can be migrated. PowerShell offers some ways to move things back and forth through scripts, but you will be better served with tools like Metalogix.