Five things you need to know about Office 365 for Education

Five things you need to know about Office 365 for Education

Summary: With the upcoming launch of Office 365 for Education -- the cloud-based communications suite for colleges -- five things you should know.


Office 365 may well be a game changer for cloud users of small to medium sized businesses.

But little has been said about its younger sister, still in college and ready to fight out to the masses -- Office 365 for Education, the successor to the current Live@edu system.

So what is next for the service, which provides email and communications to tens of millions of students worldwide?

1. Live@edu users will not be automatically upgraded to Office 365 for Education.

First things first, according to one of many spokespeople in this post, existing Live@edu users will not be automatically upgraded to the new Office 365 platform. So, for many it will remain free -- we hope.

Nevertheless, there are both advantages and disadvantages in features and in pricing. For both, read on.

2. Very little will change for you if you are upgraded to Office 365.

You may have noticed a few months ago, the Outlook interface you are used to using as part of your email adventures, changed out of the blue.

It turns out students were just the beta testers for the wider community, according to a Microsoft spokesperson at the Office 365 launch in London. But don't feel used. It's not the first time Microsoft has done it and probably will not be the last.

3. Just because Office 365 offers SharePoint and Lync does not mean you will get it.

The problem here is that Microsoft reeled in schools, colleges and universities with the prospect of freebies during the global financial crisis, hooked in institutions with free outsourced communications -- and then started to charge for academic staff.

Pricing is still not entirely clear. For students, it will be free. For staff and academics, Microsoft is charging for the privilege of using their services -- which, when put like that, seems at least somewhat fair, but not based on false premise.

"Live@edu will always be free", (another) Microsoft spokesperson told me last year. That is, when it isn't Live@edu after all, and you upgrade to Office 365 for Education.

4. BlackBerry users may finally get an Exchange reprieve.

Good news! (There had to be some). To take full advantage of Office 365's email, calendar and contact service, one needs to be running an Exchange-compatible phone. The vastly polarised students we have today are tied between iPhones which have this support, and BlackBerrys which do not.

But fear not. BlackBerry student users will be given a reprieve when Exchange support comes to the Office 365 system.

It's not entirely clear in what form this will take. But with Microsoft's recent dealings with BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, it could be that behind-the-scenes tinkering could allow enterprise-grade security and push email to be brought to BlackBerrys at long last; imitating the relationship between iPhones and Exchange.

5. Get used to it. You'll likely be using it in industry.

Whether you like it or not, Office 365 is a good deal for many. It's incredibly cheap, highly scalable and provides far better uptime than your own in-house solution ever could.

But Google Apps looks like it was designed by kids. It has little in terms of value for professionals who use the cloud-based document editing suite, which has serious compatibility consistencies compared to Microsoft's Office Web Apps.

Of course, when it comes down to data privacy and protection, one must sound that old chestnut again and mention the dreaded Patriot Act, in all of its star spangled glory.

But remember that Office 365 is more than 'just email'. It isn't "Office in the cloud" as many have suggested. It is, however, a hybrid of desktop Office software merging with online, cloud based services which are available anywhere and everywhere. Except, maybe Death Valley or the Bonneville Flats.

With Lync Online, this allows you and your college contacts to video and voice call each other for collaboration means.

Then again, your social infrastructure remains within Facebook. With the recent video calling announcement, why go elsewhere?

Other five things you should know about:

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

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  • Live @ EDU Had Similar Restrictions

    If I remember it correctly, Microsoft already mentioned in Live @ EDU documentation that they were using it as a way to prove their product (beta testing). Either they or Google Apps (don't recall which) also had in their guidelines that it was for students, not faculty. Microsoft was going to display ads to alumni, and expected you to switch status on your students when they graduated. I.e., some of these "changes" are either not an evil switch-e-ro or at least not unheard of in the industry.

    In effect, they have added more features, and those are available for a fee. It's certainly neither surprising nor unreasonable for them to not give you the full Office (rich client) suite for free, nor are they obligated to add SharePoint as a free enhancement. Office for a few bucks is an unbelievable value, and the OneNote client is vastly superior to the online version, for instance. I don't feel that OneNote Online gives you that much over a Google Apps word processing document, but once you're looking at OneNote client, it blows Google out of the water.
  • RE: Five things you need to know about Office 365 for Education

    6. Office 365 ISN'T run by Google. <br><br>Huge factor right there. The thing about Google is that they're here only to be a disruption. This isn't their primary focus as a company, and as such, I can't see myself relying on Google Apps for anything.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Why Microsoft at All

    If you want to have full features Office, and don't want to pay through the nose, why not just use OpenOffice - the free, multiplatform, multilingual, open-source office suite that is compatible with all other major office suites.
    • RE: Five things you need to know about Office 365 for Education

      @teren Open office has been good and the experiences have improved.