Microsoft’s latest update for Office 2011 is great, some really significant improvements for Outlook especially. Yes, there are improvements for Word and PowerPoint and some bits and pieces for all apps in terms of improved document handling and Lion features, for me Outlook is the biggy.
For me it was the Outlook stuff that made me pay attention. In the organisation I work for, we’ve been having terrible trouble with Outlook wanting to do database rebuilds at every opportunity and then when it does, it will pretty reliably duplicate either contacts or calendar entries. We’ve been caning our DPM server doing multiple mailbox restores! Recently we’ve simply been using a piece of freeware to remove duplicates in a Windows based outlook profile instead.
All that aside, back to the update, the headlines are:
The database and the rebuild utility are improved
As mentioned above, this ha been a real issue for us, not only wasting user time, but also admin time. Time will tell if things are vastly improved, but I thought it was worthwhile to comment on the upgrade process itself. It’s pretty lengthy, when you complete the install of the patch and load outlook for the first time it will prompt you to select which profile you would like to upgrade. This is also good news as you might want to leave a backed up profile alone. One you start the process, it is pretty length and is of course entirely dependant on the size of your mailbox. Be prepared to give up some time to it, you can NOT cancel it once it’s started.
IMAP account sync that includes support for synchronising with Gmail is improved.
Not tried this as yet, but as a lot of organisations fall in love with the Cloud, reliance on Gmail will inevitably increase.
Outlook for Mac performance in key scenarios is improved.
So far so good! My Outlook session has been grinding to a halt more and more lately, and since the install I’ve noted a vast improvement in reaction speed and in opening mail items.
Exchange email message sync is improved.
We’ve got a lot of people who are connecting via wifi and 3G, and although that is normally ok, when you’re on the edge of coverage, or something like Edge (E) or HSDPA (H) or GPRS (G) then you can really struggle. Being able to pull just headers and also pull the message in parts is great for poor bandwidth areas
Support for calendar scheduling resources is improved
The scheduling area in the calendar is vastly improved, a picture tells a thousand words, so here’s what it now looks like.
Week numbers are added to the calendar display.
AGain this is configurable, so you can put the week numbers into the Calendar view. It’s not a huge one for me, but I can see how that will be a vast improvement for some people.
Distribution list expansion functionality is included.
A real user improvement, our organisation uses loads of distribution lists and mail enabled security groups, and our users have been used to being able to check membership or alternatively be able to expand a group to remove 1 person (say when it’s about a birthday treat or something)
Some of the other bits I liked were the improved 2 line ‘Toast’ email alert, you get a wee bit more info now to make you decision on whether or not to read.
I recently attended the ‘Preparing for Office 365’ held at Microsoft’s Victoria offices. There are no burning all fire reasons for me to get into this space, but nonetheless, knowledge is power etc. In essence Office 365 takes over where BPOS leaves off, it’s the hosted offering by Microsoft for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office online and Lync online. All run on the latest 2010 variants.
There were 2 presenters, a guy from ICS, Robert Thorpe (who was a dead ringer for Smithy from Gavin and Stacey imho) and a Technical Specialist from Microsoft, Daryl Gwyn.
It was a morning only event, roughly broken into 2 sessions.
I’ve decided to offer up what I took as the points of interest:
Office 365 headlines:
- Online service is very WAN speed dependent and also Internet connectivity.
- Office 365 for EMEA is Dublin based with failover to Holland. Dedicated options are available for sensitive service organisations.
- No backup data retention options- if you want to recover data from previous months, you can’t. Microsoft only supports a 30 day recycle bin and 14 day DR backup to tape- Full backups every 12 hours and stored for 14 days.
- Geo redundancy is less about backup and restore and more just failover.
- Both Presenters were anxious to push the security aspect right down to the physical level, as in biometrics, 2 tier entry, multiple perimeter etc.
- Wan acceleration isn’t supported to/from the data centre – Also no plans to offer it.
- A few folk asked performance related questions about bandwidth and contention ratios. All surrounds just how good your Internet connection is, latency/bandwidth etc. Lots of people saying its (BPOS) rubbish when contention is high, and it is useless on dsl etc. There are no Microsoft collaborations with any Telco to improve the situation. There are no plans.
- The archive repository cannot be cached to outlook ost; it’s purely for online or connected to the server – though online mode in outlook isn’t recommended.
- Exchange online has a mobile device limitation of 5 devices -though there was no clear clarification of what was considered a mobile device (presume that anything that uses activesync will hit the count)
- Active directory upgrades required for the more detailed integration.
- Costs/pricing – various price E-plans are Enterprise and K-plans are Kiosk (factory floor folk) However there are more options for pure service based like exchange online etc. This is called the standalone pricing.
- Plain exchange online has 2plans one with voicemail one with out. Without is $5 with is $10. Lync is $2 with an extra plan, which would include virtual meetings etc. (live meeting) that’s $6.50.
- Payment options are weird, there is no direct debit option, only standing order – more pricing options for yearly and 3 yearly.
- BPOS single sign on client has gone.
- Once you buy into the platform, it means if they upgrade to the next version of the online service like ‘office366’ you will have a 12 month period once updates are announced -otherwise you WILL be migrated and older browser support for example will die- Big issue for people tied into older browsers for legacy systems!
- Small business server licensing includes all the stuff in plan 2 for share point licensing.
- Public beta is available circa April time.
- Office365 service descriptions currently in beta, but is public ally available. Office365advantage.com has these.
Office Professional Suite Online:
- It’s based on the Office Professional stack – Outlook includes Business Content Manager.
- All office 365 software is downloaded via portal, still requires install process like any other software. In essence it’s Office with an alternate licensing arrangement.
- Local PC runs an OSA office subscription agent. You get up to 5 activations, so you get to install it at home or wherever (users can do this from their portal!) then OSA goes dormant for 30 days then checks licensing, if it fails it warns for 30 days then for another 30 days with reduced functionality, then on next check-in it’s deactivated.
- All offered on a per user/ per month basis
- No IE6 support.
- Outlook 2003 will no longer work.
- Limits to 500 recipients/day ; 30messages/minute.
- No catch-all mailboxes.
- Exchange online now offers advanced routing for mail, whereas BPOS never offered
- Online for enterprise plan offers 25gb mailbox.
- Online cals also provide on-premise cal, on-premise cal is only for that, not online.
- Hosted BES service isn’t available. BES has limitations mainly subnet issues, I.e. it needs to be on be same subnet as exchange, not possible in the cloud. Work is ongoing to integrate BES with EWS, but there are no current timescales.
- Exchange online doesn’t support AD IMS except that it will talk back to on premises AD IMS. In online there is no AD IMS.
- Exchange online has no advanced filtering options except if you also have on premises then it can direct it back to an internal HT before sending. So you can’t do journaling for instance in online.
- Office 365 gives you licensing to have a gateway Exchange 2010 server to let you serve free busy info to your 2007 users. This means you have host a 2010 on-premises server until you have no more 2007 users.
- Questions were asked about the use of the ‘GoodSync’ product (which is used on mainly iPhones/iPads for fencing off work email from personal in a secure manner) Nobody presenting knew about it. It’s a product that Vodafone are offering with their data packages for stuff like iPhones and iPads.
- You also can’t use something like Websense, Messagelabs or Postini, without sending the mail back to a routing box YOU host to then forward onto the 3rd party.
- Sharepoint online – sandbox options, intranet and extranet sites offered.
- Share point 2010 allows document sharing within the document to allow bits and pieces of the document to be locked. It’s an add-on to make check in and check out more granular.
- SharePoint online licensing seems a bit mad, if you share a document outside your organisation via the extranet and they use the web app to edit text on your ppt say (a ppt that you shared with them via the extranet) then that is breaking then law as they have no licence. It needs more thought. It also generates billing to you based on who does access on a per user per month basis. It’s haphazard imho.
- Share point FIS is For Internet Sites. Which covers anon access, currently not on roadmap but is destined for 12 months.
- There are 3 options for identity federation
- Local I’d with Microsoft ids (So separate from your AD)
- Dirsync (A pull from your in-house AD)
- Federation + dirsync. ADFS 2.0
- There is No federation on XP home or media centre (as it can’t be added to a domain) This limits what home users have as OS. -Potential issues requiring further investment.
- High availability of your own dmz/firewall/Connectivity is stressed all the time. If your have poor WAN links and only small Internet connectivity then don’t bother.
- Insights- Visio services which can tie icons or drawings back to actual data.
- Lync online has no PSTN breakout in the cloud but is expected late 2011, once they work out how to bill it probably!
- Lync online offers no PBX integration and there are no plans.
So far, I’ve found these links useful: