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

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With the Office 365 beta, the administration views are not set yet from what I can see. Right now there are only two views: Sign In Allowed Users and Sign In Blocked Users. When I try to create a new view, which you can do with BPOS, I don't get the same level of options that BPOS offers. In BPOS, I can configure location, last sign-in date, services licensing assignment, enabled accounts, disabled accounts, and more. With Office 365, I don't have many options for creating my own views, so I'm hoping for improvements.

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The Office 365 interface is polished and has the SharePoint 2010 feel, which I really like. I also appreciate that at any time I can click the top to take me to my Outlook Web App interface by clicking Outlook or to my SharePoint Team Site by clicking Team Site.

Where administration of Office 365 shines

It may be easy for people who are not familiar with all the enhancements in Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync 2010 to overlook where those enhancements benefit administration. For example, Exchange 2010 has a new Outlook Web App (OWA) that users can benefit from. In fact, Office 365 is already built on Exchange 2010 SP1, which has further enhancements to OWA, like the addition of themes that users can choose, which are easy to see on the user side of Office 365. However, that doesn't mean anything with regard to administration.

If you try to manage Exchange Online from the Office 365 console, you'll see the new benefits quickly. In BPOS, administration is limited to a handful of configuration options like the creation of distribution lists, safe senders, blocked senders, and conference rooms. But when you enter the Office 365 administration for Exchange Online, you get the new Exchange Control Panel (ECP), which provides most of the functionality online that you have in an on-premise deployment of Exchange.

You can work with all your users in a familiar ECP interface rather than going through the typical hosted Exchange Web-based interfaces that are designed purely for a hosted experience. With an OWA-based ECP, you can configure roles, which include the ability to configure discovery management (and correspondingly allow users with permissions to perform multiple-mailbox discovery searches if necessary). The delegation of responsibilities through the ECP is a real plus.

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