Microsoft's Office 365: Business users' top questions (and answers)

Microsoft's Office 365: Business users' top questions (and answers)

Summary: Microsoft provides answers to some current and potential Office 365 business users' most pressing questions.


Microsoft launched and began rolling out the updated version of its Office 365 cloud-hosted suite of apps for business users on February 27.


Existing and potential users have plenty of questions about the upgrade. As many, if not more, of their questions seem to be about the rollout of the new Office 365 than they are about the refreshed Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office 2013 services/products themselves.

Microsoft conducted a launch Webcast about the rollout on February 27. I pulled some of the audience members' top questions and Microsoft-provided answers from that event. I've added a couple of additional annotations in some cases, as I've indicated.

Q: When will existing Office365 users gain access to the Office 2013 desktop suite?

A: Office 365 ProPlus - the Office 365 version of the Office 2013 suite is made available to existing Office 365 subscribers with an eligible subscription today using the Office Deployment Tool. It will also be available directly in Office 365 once your tenant has been upgraded. (MJF: More details on the way the rollout will happen are in my blog post.)

Q: What about pricing for the new Office 365 for business offerings?

A: Microsoft's Office site has comparison information for small business users and midsize/enterprise users.

Q: If I install Office 365 will it overwrite Office 2010 or can I have both versions running?

A: Office 365 ProPlus can be installed side-by-side with previous versions of Office.

Q: Would love to understand how Office365 would allow us to replace Dropbox.

A: Office 365 now offers SkyDrive Pro for personal document management and sharing. It is accessible across OSes and devices, and comes with the powerful backend of SharePoint Online for versioning, backup/restore, review management, and direct integration with the Office Web Apps.

Q: Is it possible for current P (small-business) Plan customers to upgrade to the M (mid-size business) plan?

A: Existing customers on the P1 version of Office 365 will be able to upgrade to the Midsize Business SKU later this year. New Office 365 Small Business and Small Business Premium customers will also be able to upgrade to the Midsize Business SKU later this year.

Q: How much space will be available in SkyDrive Pro per user?

A: 7GB, up from 500MB in the previous Office 365 experience.

Q: Will organizations using Live@edu be able to move their SkyDrive files directly to Office 365 for Education, now that SkyDrive is part of the offering?

A: Students and teachers who have been using SKyDrive with Live@edu will continue to have access to their documents and files stored on SkyDrive. They can easily move files between their consumer SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro provided by the organizations with Office 365.There is no way for an organization to move these files on behalf of the user.

Q: Will existing Yammer accounts still work?

A: Yes.

Q: Can I integrate Yammer with SharePoint?

A: Yes. Yammer and SharePoint already can be connected using available web parts to pull in data from Yammer, and Open Graph technology to push information from 3rd party systems into the Yammer stream. (MJF: Here's Microsoft's timetable for fully integrating Yammer and SharePoint. On the pricing side, March 1 is an important milestone date.)

Q: To what extent are different mobile devices supported with the new Office 365?

A: You'll find more details on support for various types of devices here. (MJF: As my CNET colleague Jay Greene noted yesterday, Microsoft still isn't saying anything new/more about plans to make Office available on the iPad.)

Q: When will existing Office365 users be required to move? Can we move on our own schedule?

A: The service upgrade for existing Office 365 customers is progressing now. Once you are notified of the upgrade you can defer that one time for 45-60 days. For more information about the service upgrade refer to:

Q: Is the cost of the Project Online service on top of an Office 365 E(n) plan?)

A: Project Online is an additional service to Office 365 E Plans which delivers enterprise Project, Program and Portfolio Management. (MJF: The same is true of Visio Online. More information here.)

Q: Is it possible to mix and match different O365 subscriptions? IE. Having some users on an E1 plan and others on the E2/Midsize business plan?

A: You can mix plans within a plan family so yes you can mix Enterprise E1, E3, E4, K1 plans. You can also mix Small Business plans P1 and P2 plans. M plans cannot be mixed with any others.

Q: Are Blackberry Cloud Services available on the new Office 365?

A: Yes. They are available now for the New Office 365.

Q: Will there be still an E2 plan?

A: We are including Office Web Apps included in E1, which enables even more of our customers to get use of Office Web Apps while simplifying our lineup. E2 will continue to be available for existing customers.

I've seen a bit of confusion about what constitutes an upgrade vs. an update in Office 365 land. The easiest way to think about this is an upgrade is a whole new version of Office 365 (similar to what a new release would be in Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and/or Office). An update is a set of more minor fixes and updates, which the Office 365 team has said it plans to provide quarterly to those using the hosted services.

Other questions about the new Office 365 for business offerings, readers?

Topics: Google Apps, Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, IT Policies


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • LOL

    Who is willing to pay 15$ per month for a service you can get for free elsewhere?
    • Where do they offer it for free?

      Nowhere I am aware of offers what these plans offer at anywhere near the price, and without question, no one offers it for free. These plans offer full corporate class exchange email, share point storage and document collaboration, Lync for IM and HD conferencing. Plus full Office 2013 on up to 5 devices. Were can I find that for free?
      • No

        What about google docs?
        OpenOffice is also beeing ported to the cloud, so people will be able to run it in their private clouds for free...
        If you really need office, isn't it cheaper to just by an office license? You will keep it for the next 5 years, and since the microsoft terms which disallow uninstall and reinstall on newer hardware are not valid (at least in Europe) it's eventually cheaper to just by an office release once in a while, if you really have to rely on office.
        It's maybe also cheaper to get previous versions from maybe ebay (and, yes, that's legal), which would cost you far below 100$.
        • Perhaps More Research Is In Order...

          First, Google Docs is no longer free to Business users. Second, running software in their "private cloud" is not free. In fact, it's extremely expensive. Either you aren't in IT or you don't understand the costs of servers, maintenance (patching and upgrades), testing out redudancy, etc.

          Third, 15 goes well beyond an "Office License". Lync is a business instant messaging and online meeting product that you can't find free (check out the prices of GoToMeeting) and Exchange isn't free either.

          Fourth, I wouldn't buy software on ebay that's less than $100 because it's either the home and student edition or it's pirated or it's extremely old. You can legally resell your Office but if you buy a pirated edition you're simply out the money (same would be if you bought stolen merchandise)
        • Don't forget support/maintenance fees

          Why is it everyone thinks that companies that opt for non-hosted licensing have a one time cost? Most enterprises I know have annual contracts to provide additional support and maintenance for their purchased licensed products. They're already used to recurring costs for their Microsoft products.
        • Google sucks for small business

          We're a small business of 8 people. We had the free Google Apps for Business last year and upgraded to the paid version. You don't really get much for your money. Yes Office 365 is more, but you get more. I'm just finishing a 30 day trial of Office 365 and have told my boss we need to migrate, as the integration and options far surpasses what we have now. Plus the google/microsoft war has hindered the ability to properly sync anything google related into is great for either personal use or companies of 5000. not small business.
          Josh St Cloud
    • Errr.....

      You are mixing business versus consumers. You can't [technically] use Google Docs for a business unless you purchased a subscription - just like you can't use Microsoft "University" for business purposes.
      • Google Docs was free

        Google Docs was free for Business of less than 10 users until December last year. Since then you need to pay for it
        Brian Darroch
        • That was Google Apps

          It's a different product than Google Docs, although they have a lot of similarities.
  • Is Office 365 compliant with SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) ??

    Probably one of the downsides of this whole "cloud" hype and phenomena is that data is stored out of control on somebody elses network. Are there any concerns with large corporations who must comply with SOX "handing over" their files somewhere else??
    Mike from Philly
    • SOx

      You may find pertinent information in the links posted on this forum thread:

      Note that you can add additional home-grown / 3rd party services to be compliant with most requirements and certifications (e.g. immutable backups, etc.)
    • Store it wherever you like

      Office365 does not require you to store your data in the cloud. The desktop versions of the software work just like old desktop versions of office. People/Companies can continue using whatever storage model they used to use with the added benefit of using skydrive for secure, https access of files for remote sharing/collaboration. The alternative was having to send encrypted attachments or sending via encrypted ftp and is very, very cumbersome for the average user to send OR receive.
  • Mail archiving

    We currently use a third party mail archiving software tool that collects all inbound and outbound e-mail. Users have no access to the archive except read only so we have a permanent record of all corporate e-mail. Can these third party systems work with the new hosted 365 option and if not what level of Office 365 do we need to have to attain this same level of e-mail security? We also use a third party SPAM filtering service inbound that is particularly effective. I assume this service can remain in place with Office 365 or is it made redundant by SPAM filtering built into Office 365? We currently pay about $1 a month per user for this service. We are a small business that would require 18 seats of the new service. I am assuming the $15/month level. This amounts to $3240 per year. We don't spend anything near this today with our locally hosted SBS server. We just recently updated to SBS 2010 and Office 2010. We used SBS Server 2003 and Office 2003 for 5 years before this. Why would we want to make this change? Also we are a Canadian corporation and very uncomfortable having our corporate data stored on servers outside of our country. What assurances do we have from Microsoft that our e-mails and Office documents would not be stored outside of Canada and accessible by foreign governments? As you can see, lots of questions still remain on this new model of service.
    • ok

      maybe contact microsoft sales with your questions rather than posting on a website?
      Josh St Cloud
    • Mail Archiving, Security & "trusting Office 365"

      RE: dforst

      Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online for the email portion of the service. Exchange Online, like Exchange 2013, can also do e-mail archiving. Depending on the Office 365 plan purchased it may already be included. Here are a few links that talk about it and the underlying technology:

      In regards to spam - all Exchange Online (Office 365) email users are protected by Exchange Online Protection - the cloud based antimalware solution that is part of Office 365.

      As for trusting Microsoft with your data I recommend going through all the information Microsoft has on security & compliance on the Office 365 Trust Center here:
  • Regarding using office 2010 and 365

    Whether or not it applies here, you can't have two versions of Outlook installed on onre computer because of the way Outlook was developed. Two versions of Word, Excel, Access, etc. are fine as long as they are installed in different folders.
    • Office 2010 w/ Office 2013/Office 365

      Office 2013 (and Outlook 2013) can be installed side by side on the same computer that has Office 2010 or previous versions of Outlook/Office. This Microsoft support article explains some of the issues one may run into when doing this, but it is supported overall:
  • Whatever happended to BizTalk

    BizTalk was promoted as the Business Integration environment, just a few years back, but that Business Application Integration Server side no longer seems to be favoured by Microsoft.

    It is difficult to have confidence in Microsoft when they keep shifting all around with no clear direction.
  • Office 365

    We bought new laptops for 2 staff and loaded Office 365 Pro-Plus. We have spent many hours getting it to work and it still does not sync properly with gmail. We had no trouble with Outlook 2007 syncing with gmail. After about 4 hours of trying to get it to work, the Microsoft rep suggested I call google and see if they can get it to work! I am at Level 2 tech with Microsoft. How do I get someone to help resolve our issues? This is not a program I would recommend to anyone without an IT expert on staff.