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07 Mar 2013
Choose carefully, buyers: there are now nine Office 365 bundles available for business buyers to choose from - and that’s not including the ones for education, government and consumers.
Do your homework carefully: that’s the advice from IT market analysts to IT buyers considering Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud-based email and collaboration products for business. With the upgrades announced by the software giant last week, they say, the range of choices just got bigger - and, some might argue, even more confusing.
Not only have the individual components of Office 365 - such as Exchange for email, SharePoint for document collaboration and Lync for unified comms - been upgraded to the latest 2013 code base, but also there are three new configurations of the Office 365 suite.
First, there’s the previously announced Office 365 ProPlus, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath, Access and Lync. This is aimed at large enterprises, and can be streamed from a server to up to five devices, including Macs. Each license is tied to the user, however, not the device.
The idea behind Office 365 ProPlus is that it is installed on in-house servers and lives alongside existing versions of Office, offering IT admins a way to roll-out the new versions gradually to users and giving users time to adapt to new functionality. In other words, it’s basically a way for Microsoft to shift large enterprises to a subscription-based model and, in the process, get its hands on a more predictable, regular revenue stream. The bet that the company is making is that the convenience and longer-term cost savings of not having to manually install both servers and desktop software should ease resistance to the subscription model. It costs US$144 (£95) per user, per year if bought as a standalone suite.
Second, there’s Office 365 Midsize Business, designed for organisations with between 10 and 250 employees, which along with Office ProPlus, comes with simplified IT administration tools designed to make it easier for IT ‘generalists’ to manage users, as well as Active Directory integration and business-hours phone support. The price for this version is $180 (£119) per user, per year.
Third, there’s Office 365 Small Business Premium, designed for organisations with between one and 10 employees. “In addition to the complete set of rich Office applications, this service includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD video conferencing in an easy-to-manage service that doesn’t require regular IT expertise,” claims Microsoft. It costs $150 (£99) per user, per year.
But (and this is where it gets complicated) Microsoft has also upgraded two offerings available with the original version of Office 365, which debuted in June 2011. These were Office 365 for Professional and Small Businesses and Office 365 for Midsized Businesses and Enterprises - but they’ve now been renamed Office 365 for Small Business and Office 365 for Enterprise.
As industry analysts have observed, this brings the total number of Office 365 bundles for businesses to nine - and that’s not counting packages specifically tailored for education, government and consumers.
The new and upgraded Office 365 bundles, meanwhile, are now available in 69 markets and 17 languages, according to the company, with plans to expand into 20 more markets and 16 more languages in the second quarter of 2013. Microsoft executives claim that Office 365 has been adopted by one in five Microsoft customers and that small and medium-size business customers have grown in numbers by 150 percent in the past year.