Office 365: Expect huge improvements for admins

Some UI issues aside, the beta shows real promise for what matters to admin: strong controls for a cloud service

The cloud war is on. My colleague Eric Knorr made that clear in his recent blog post "Microsoft and Google launch new assaults on the cloud," and it's hard to resist the desire to write about the obvious battle ahead. Eric has kicked off that conversation, and InfoWorld's mobile guru, Galen Gruman, followed up with how Office 365 doesn't live up to Microsoft's promise that it would run on mobile devices.

But whatever your view on the merits of Google's and Microsoft's cloud offerings, the fact is many admins will use Office 365 as an upgrade from the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Redmond's first real productivity cloud offering into managing Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync.

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BPOS vs. Office 365: The admin's perspective

I'm a BPOS user and promoter. The pricing was compelling enough and included so many great add-ons like SharePoint, Live Meeting, and Communicator that I jumped at it. However, I admit its administration is a bit confusing at times, and I have a hard time finding what I need when I log in. Take a look at the initial login interface for administrative BPOS below.

o365a_0.jpg

The Office 365 interface has a new home page with some of the same elements, but there's one key distinction I don't like: You have to click Admin to go to the Admin Overview page, where you can add new users and such. (Both the initial home page and the admin home page are shown below.) Typically I only log in to work on users, so I prefer the BPOS arrangement where those controls are right on the home dashboard.

o365.jpg

One thing I really like about BPOS is that you go to the user list and have a handy list of links on the right side that include enabled users, administrators, disabled users, users who have never signed in, and users with disabled licenses. It's an easy way to see who hasn't signed in before.

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