For businesses with an already established on-premises Exchange environment, Microsoft provides a migration tool so you can move your mailboxes online. In fact, the latest version of the Migration Tools were just released last week in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. In addition, the tools contain PowerShell cmdlets for administrator's to automate tasks.
The four primary applications in BPOS are:
- Exchange Online: Currently still based on Exchange 2007 with plans to move to Exchange 2010 in the near future, this service allows administrators to configure the size of mailboxes per user based upon the overall amount purchased. Users access to mailboxes through Outlook is recommended but not required.
- SharePoint Online: Having the ability to work with SharePoint's workspaces, workflow management, and document library check-in/check-out features is a tremendous benefit to BPOS for a company that doesn't have an existing SharePoint infrastructure but could benefit from one.
- Office Live Meeting: Provides real-time conferencing and collaboration (similar to a GoToMeeting or WebEx conference). With the ability to perform slide presentations, share applications, work on a whiteboard, share your entire desktop, and so forth, Office Live Meeting is bundled into the BPOS and can be a great tools for both small and large enterprises.
- Office Communications Online: Provides corporate IM and presence awareness. Beyond that, it also provides you the ability to have person-to-person voice and video discussions through Office Communicator R2.
In addition to tools for users with dedicated computers and client software installed, BPOS also has a "deskless" license option. The deskless license is very limited in that you only have access to your mailbox through Outlook Web Access (which will be a lot better when the move is made to Exchange 2010 and you can connect with Outlook Web App instead). The SharePoint connection is limited to read-only access to the SharePoint sites. The deskless license is a great option for consultants and temp workers who need only online mailbox access and/or read-only SharePoint access.
Even though the suite is the more cost-effective method of deploying BPOS, you can also subscribe to individual applications separately. An all-suite subscription costs $10 per user per month, whereas Exchange Online costs $5 per user per month and SharePoint Online costs $5.25 per user per month. It's clear that the per-application subscriptions make sense financially only if you need just one of the apps.
Online Services are not for everyone
Obviously, companies with functioning legacy infrastructures may not see a clear path to online services. But perhaps a hybrid solution will work with your environment to get you started. Move over those mailboxes that you know you can move, and retain on-premises the ones you believe must be protected in-house.