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Our Office 365 Experience: Part 3, The Verdict

After a smooth migration from Google Apps to Office 365, we're pretty pleased.

The Exchange side couldn't work more smoothly. SharePoint -- after a couple of hiccups and re-starts -- is also a blessing. Our lesson? Don't mess with the built-in groups that SharePoint creates when you set up a new site. Sure, you can change their membership, but don't delete them or SharePoint just doesn't work right any more.

Our biggest beef is in how external users get invited into a SharePoint site. As near as we can figure, they have to have a Hotmail address, since that's the only method external users have to authenticate to the O365 system. Seems weird. I realize authentication has to come from somewhere, but forcing folks to use Hotmail just feels awkward. Even requiring a generic "Live" account would be better.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that O365 is extremely Mac-friendly. I use a Mac myself for my "knowledge worker" tasks, like checking e-mail and writing (Office for the Mac is a wonderful product), and have had zero problems. The Outlook Web App experience is fantastic. My Office Mac applications talk to SharePoint seamlessly. Even the latest build of the Lync Mac client works very well for online presence and chats, although that was the last piece of the puzzle to come together. I've even switch from using the Mac's native PIM apps over to Outlook Mac, and I'm pretty pleased with the experience, and with the feature-parity between it and the Windows version. O365 works flawlessly with my iPhone and with other users' Android phones -- my Outlook Tasks even show up in iOS 5's "Reminders" app.

I'm disappointed by the amount of PowerShell we had to use to get our O365 up and running, but those were one-time events for the most part. I do think Microsoft needs to provide a bit more GUI and a bit less PowerShell for those tasks, especially setting up a custom domain name. It's not that I dislike PowerShell (I'm a PowerShell MVP, after all), but O365 just isn't being marketed to businesses that would have any reason to even know what PowerShell is.

That does highlight a good point, though: A lot of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are miffed at Microsoft for launching O365, because they view it as an end-run to the customer that would normally go to an MSP for outsourced e-mail. Those MSPs can relax. Most SMBs should at least consider buying O365 through an MSP, rather than directly from Microsoft. There are technical bits to set up and maintain, including custom domain names and a lot more. There are caveats in O365 than an MSP can help you understand, like the max-recipients-per-day cap. An SMB with a savvy "tech guy" can probably go O365 on their own; a business who doesn't want to have that on-staff geek is going to have to rent that geek, and he or she might as well come from an MSP that can also provide ongoing support.

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Posted by Don Jones on 01/23/2012 at 1:14 PM


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