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What’s New with Office 365?

Learn about the latest features in Microsoft's cloud-based version of its Office productivity suite.

Microsoft recently revamped its hosted software offering, formerly Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), and renamed the suite Office 365. But what’s the difference?

With Office 365, businesses can now subscribe to the latest versions of Microsoft’s communications and collaboration tools and access them over the web. Offerings include the 2010 versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Microsoft Office. Office 365 also includes Microsoft’s new unified communications tool, Lync, which features presence and instant messaging; audio, video and web conferencing; and Voice over IP.

BPOS, which is no longer available for purchase, used the 2007 versions of Microsoft’s software, including Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications and Live Meeting. Microsoft is requiring current BPOS customers to migrate to Office 365 by September 2012.

Corporate Traffic, a logistics and transportation company in Jacksonville, Fla., will soon migrate to the new service, and in doing so, will switch from a hosted version of Exchange Server 2007 to Exchange Server 2010. Microsoft will provide migration tools, and the process should be seamless, says Mark Armstrong, Corporate Traffic’s information systems manager.

Upgrading to the new version of Exchange will provide several benefits to Corporate Traffic, including the ability to use Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which will provide Android smartphone users with better access to work e-mail, he says.

The hosted version of Exchange 2010 also eliminates the need to use a tool to sync passwords between Corporate Traffic’s Active Directory and Microsoft’s online service. With BPOS and Exchange 2007, the syncing tool would sometimes get finicky and not sync users’ passwords, preventing them from authenticating and forcing Armstrong to restart the syncing tool’s server.

With Office 365, Microsoft’s hosted e-mail automatically connects to Corporate Traffic’s Active Directory to verify passwords, eliminating the need for the syncing tool, he says.

The company, which previously used Office Communications in BPOS for instant messaging and video conferencing, is looking into using Office 365’s Lync communications tool for its new VoIP feature.

Overall, Armstrong says the company’s experience with cloud computing has been positive; it plans to use more cloud services in the future, including using the public cloud to back up and archive its data.

“You will always find greater value in a cloud-based service,” he says. “The value is decreased management time, ease of use, flexibility and scalability.”

To learn more about how businesses are using cloud-based solutions like Office 365, read our feature story, "Many Paths to the Cloud."

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Aug 30 2011 Spice IT

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