Significant update to Office 365 live

Experts react to online version of SharePoint

Last week represented a significant milestone for Microsoft, as its most recent cloud version of SharePoint and Office, known as Office 365, went live. If you're like me, you might find the branding a bit confusing, but make no mistake, this is the online version of SharePoint.

At the SharePoint Conference last Fall, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) promised its users regular updates to the cloud version and tried to assure customers that it would offer an equal experience to the on-premise version, while offering all the advantages of being hosted in the cloud.

A couple of industry experts told FierceContentManagement they were impressed with the new offering.

Peter Senescu, president of MetaVis Technologies, whose company announced an Office 365 migration tool set this week, says there are a lot of upsides to switching. "Moving to Office 365 has a tremendous ROI for all types of businesses. You can let the experts in Exchange and SharePoint take responsibility in managing your information at a fraction of the price of running these enterprise solutions internally," he told FierceContentManagement in an email.

Chris McNulty, CTO and General Manager of Sharepoint at Dell Software/Quest, says there's a lot happening here with some extremely useful enhancements, but enterprise customers need to understand that it's going to require some significant advanced planning to make the transition to the latest version.

"There's a kitchen sink of enhancements in SharePoint 2013. The greatest user impact will come from the new app model, enhanced search, and especially, enterprise social collaboration. A lot can be done with this version, but take caution, deploying SharePoint without a plan for management and governance is a recipe for poor adoption and user dissatisfaction. In fact, as user adoption increases, SharePoint administrators need the right set of tools to help foster internal use while ensuring that compliance and security remain tight," McNulty told FierceContentManagement in an email.


Microsoft made clear at the SharePoint Conference that it wants its customers to move to the cloud version. Microsoft hopes to lure customers there by offering regular updates to the cloud product, which could take quite some time to reach the on-premise version (although a Microsoft spokesperson would not commit to any timetable for the on-premise updates).

Some customers I spoke to at the conference didn't seem quite ready to commit to the cloud version though, no matter how enticing Microsoft made it. As one person told me, what happens if he closes his data center and finds he's not satisfied with the cloud version? At that point, he can't afford to build it back out again and he's stuck.

As McNulty and Senescu pointed out, however, there are many advantages to moving to the cloud version, and with Microsoft saying it will regularly update it, it has to be a tempting approach for many companies.

For more information:
- see the Microsoft Office 365 press release

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