Office 365 and “cloud” subscriptions

What is could computing? It’s storing stuff in the cloud and having everything in one central place for accessibility, agility, and redundancy. Some go all-in and dump it all up there. Others, like me, use a hybrid solution. There are some documents that I don’t want out there, for obvious reasons.


What’s Office 365? I’ve been using Office 365 for quite a while. But I was using it back before it was even called Office 365, can’t even recall right now what it was. Which is probably good. I actually have two subscriptions. One for Home and Business called “Office 365 Home and Business” that I purchased a one year subscription for $99.00, bumping up my SkyDrive (cloud) storage by 20GB (I think). I purchased that along with my Surface Pro from Microsoft Store. The other subscription is Office 365 Enterprise 4 (E4) that’s basically an enterprise subscription, really an E3, grandfathered in from when I worked at Microsoft. Legacy account that was upgraded to Office 365 back when it was released. I recently converted it to a paid subscription for $20.00/month. So I have two subscriptions for 120.00+99.00=$219.00/year. Each cover one user (me).


Subscriptions are really just paying per month or per year, or whatever service contract you get into. Stop paying, stop using. Like the phone or electric company. Or, your internet service provider charging you per month as opposed to metering your usage and charging you for that (wireless data plans).


SharePoint is a web solution (web application, service running on web server(s)) that enables you to create a business portal (site collections/subsites) without the need to know web development or web design. It’s like FrontPage but for businesses and it’s all web based. So you don’t need to install an app on the client. But you can install Office suite or SharePoint Workspace (Groove) and interact with SharePoint server from the client with those apps acting as the client front end to interface with SharePoint’s front end. It’s sometimes hosted on premise, partner hosting, or on Office 365 subscription.


SharePoint Online is the “cloud” service or off-premise or outsourced version of SharePoint. They host it, not you. It comes bundled in enterprise (volume) offerings of Office 365.


So if someone approaches and asks me What is Office 365? what do I tell them? I tell them that Office 365 is simply a suite of web applications (running on web servers on the Internet), similar to how the Microsoft Office suite bundles apps for Windows or Mac computers. Microsoft Office is not an application*, it’s a product or a SKU (stock keeping unit). A box, if you will. Just another way to get the apps, or in this case, services. Office 365 Home and Business can be purchased in a box at a store but it’s just a card with a (25 character) product key to unlock the product. But that’s all done online, you just buy a license in a box, basically.


Home/Startup/SMB versus Large Organization/Corporation/Enterprise:
Office 365 Home and Business, gives you more storage in the cloud (SkyDrive, 20GB) and Skype minutes (60/month). I’m not sure if they replenish per month or not. Or if it’s just 60 for the whole year. Need to check on that.

Office 365 Enterprise suites, give you SharePoint Online, Exchange, Lync, Office suite (clients). I think with the higher suites (E3/E4) you’ll get more web services like Office Web Apps hosted (not on SkyDrive) or Visio Services (not on E1/E2). That was last time I checked. So I could be off on those. But I do know that it’s not related to SkyDrive, you store your documents in SharePoint Document Libraries (repositories).


For consumers (personal individual end-users) or small business (SMB) owners, startups, what have you; cloud computing a good thing. For enterprises (large organizations, corporations) it’s also good, but not as important if you understand Microsoft Licensing and volume licensing or enterprise agreements. MS partners and ISVs should have a grasp of MS licensing concepts.


Single, LLC startups should look at getting Home and Business. Enterprises the E1-E4 suites. I’ll try to refine the E-x model later.


Okay, so it’s a suite of applications. So what applications are in that now? Okay, here’s the selling points begin: You get SharePoint Online (business portal), Exchange (email server), Communications Server (now Lync Server?) for instant messaging (IM) and online meetings. Pretty easy sell to someone already into that stuff already and using them on-premise. Even if they’re not using SharePoint or Exchange. There’s some other features included but I won’t get into those yet.





Office Professional 2010 (client machines)


The big sell for me is having both SharePoint Online and Exchange, sometimes referred to as SPO, hosted and outsourced. Because even if Microsoft hosts it and I can’t touch the servers, from an HR/operational perspective you’ve just eliminated the need for 1) two full time administrators (SP/Exchange), 2) server hardware, 3) carbon footprint, and 4) operational costs (reducing TCO**: power, cooling equip., backup, peripherals, cables, upkeep, etc…).


The tough sell is if someone isn’t currently running Exchange or SharePoint. But there’s migration paths out (whitepapers) out there, demos, accelerators, etc… if someone wants to read further.


It’s a subscription based The fees are doled out per month, per user.


So great, I’m sold. Where do I get it now? Partner/VAR (value added reseller) or direct marketing?


Talk to a local or trusted certified (gold, silver, etc…) Microsoft Partner or if you have a Microsoft Store nearby, visit that and ask them. Merchants who are partners may have a partner sticker (branding) in their window, entry, kiosk, billboard, or in their ads in local periodicals (newspapers, yellow pages) or other media (radio/TV/web). You can locate either through Microsoft PinPoint (Bing or Google it). If you don’t want to talk to a partner call 800-MICROSOFT or visit Or, just search or for Office 365 and you’ll get ads, assuming you’re not blocking ads. I recommend if you want to check ads, but that’s just because I haven’t used Google as much lately. I use Bing for the reward points accumulated with every search when I’m logged in with Microsoft Account (Live/Hotmail) or Facebook. Partners should be able to answer the simple (pre-sales) questions without charging for anything. But if they don’t, you can go to another or just contact Microsoft sales over phone or electronically using the information above.


I encourage consumers or small businesses to get in touch with their local MS partner, if available, in their region. Because, it promotes local merchants which in turn helps local commerce. But should always have an entry point like chat to speak to a rep. Just during normal business hours. After hours you may get someone in chat on the Answers desk, they may not know as much.


Where I live, Fargo, it would be either Staples (OfficeMax), Best Buy, and the local “computer place” store(s). Either the guys in software, PC area, or service desk (Geek Squad) should be able to help if you ask about Office 365 and “cloud” services.


What about privacy and CISPA? Yes, there’s concerns and chatter out there in the media regarding new privacy legislation. Me included. But I won’t get into that in this post. I still don’t know enough to comment on CISPA. But Microsoft does have privacy statements at the corporate, subsidiary, and intellectual property level (Office 365 itself) that by reviewing should help you rationalize the benefits versus risks (Pros vs. Cons) of hosting off-premise (off site) by another company (hosting service). In this case, Microsoft is the hosting service. This really goes the same for Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, etc… They all have privacy statements and I haven’t heard anything that these organizations have ever gone against the principles laid out in those statements. Just be on the lookout for the words statement, policy, or terms and read the fine print.


Okay, but what issues are there I need to look out for?


*Setup.exe that installs Microsoft Office (MSI based installs, not Click to Run (C2R***)) is, well yes, an executable, so theoretically it could be perceived as an application because of the user interface to install Office to make it easier for a human being (not automation), but it’s really what some software engineers would just a call a wrapper containing of MSIs that calls (makes a request to Windows to run) the Windows Installer (msiexec.exe) service.

Tags: consumer, advocacy, evangelism, marketing, cloud, subscription, storage


**TCO stands for total cost of ownership. In the context of this article, it’s the costs to host SharePoint on-premise.

***C2R stands for click to run and is the new technology that installs Office. If you buy online, you’re probably getting a click to run (C2R) install. Some sites you purchase from online (MS Store, educational, vol licensing portal) will give you the option to download full MSI (MicroSoft Installer package, *.msi via setup.exe) based install.