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By: Clint Patterson
Just one month ago, we introduced Office 365 to the world, and the response has been awesome. We continue to see great press and analyst coverage, fantastic partner support, and amazing customer interest. 5,000 people 'like' Office 365 on Facebook, more than 4,000 follow Office 365 on Twitter, thousands more read this blog every day, and more than 60,000 organizations have signed up for the beta - roughly 2,000 per day.
With all the buzz, we've seen lots of questions about the beta process and when will 'my' account be activated. So we wanted to take the chance to answer some of the top questions help folks understand what to expect.
1) When does the beta start?
It has already started. We are adding more organizations to the beta gradually over several weeks, so we're always adding new testers every day.
2) Why is the beta limited?
There are lots of reasons, but two are really important: First, we want everyone testing Office 365 to have a great experience, and second, we need to be able to test things like scalability and performance in a controlled environment. Limiting the beta ensures we can do both.
3) Will there be a "public" beta?
We expect to be able to add more folks to the beta, but we don't know when or how many just yet because we just started testing.
A public beta is something we always do for software products, but it's not always necessary for cloud services. With software, a public beta helps us test the near-infinite number of environments customers have, but with a cloud service, we have only one environment - our data centers. So, with cloud services, we will often gate beta access, as we did with betas for BPOS, Azure and Intune.
4) How many people get into the beta?
We're limiting the beta to just a few thousand organizations initially. Each organization will be able to roll out 25 accounts.
5) If I'm registered for the beta, how do I know if I got in?
You'll get an e-mail from us with your account credentials.
6) How are you determining who gets into the beta?
To start, you have to meet the requirements for the beta, like being in one of the thirteen countries and regions where it's available. Basic stuff like that. After that, it is basically first-come, first served, but there are a couple of exceptions. First, some early beta slots were allocated to existing customers who have been helping us design our cloud services. We figure that's the least we could do. Second, we require a geographically diverse set of testers. So, for example, if all the first applicants were in Hong Kong, we would eventually have to skip until we found the first applicants in Spain, Singapore and Germany.
7) Is the beta feature complete?
Not entirely. While it is mostly feature complete, we are still adding new capabilities, as is the case with most betas. Before we launch Office 365, we will add some additional capabilities, such as Lync Online capabilities from the newly released server, for example.
8) What happens if I have not gotten into the beta yet?
You'll get a monthly e-mail from us with the latest status on the service until you get in or we launch. We won't forget about you, and you'll be among the very first to learn when the service launches.
9) What should I do in the meantime? I really want to try out your service!
You can test BPOS with a free, 30-day trial right now (trust us, no wait list). BPOS combines Exchange Online and SharePoint Online with Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online (soon to be Lync Online). You'll be in pretty elite company - Volvo, DuPont, Godiva, GAP, GlaxoSmithKline, Energizer, Starbucks, Tyco, Rexel and thousands of others have chosen BPOS for their business today. And if you subscribe to BPOS, you can move to Office 365 when it launches next year. (For more details on that transition, check out our BPOS transition center.)
10) So, if I haven't signed up for the beta already, should I even bother?
Yes. Bother! Signing up for the beta holds your place in line, so the fastest way to get into the beta is to sign up now.
Thanks for your enthusiasm and great questions. Keep them coming!
Sort of. If someone from your company Lync calls you and it rings to vmail, that will show up in your Exchange inbox and therefore on your phone in the Outlook huh. There is no integration with External phones though, so you friends can't call your Lync (only Lync to Lync calls). This will change in the future, but at release that is the plan.
@Ed: for further clarification, Office 365 is a 2nd generation of both services. Office 365 for small business does have a limit of 50 users and is meant for companies from 1-5 who don't really have IT expertise or needs, but want enterprise level email, websites and collaboration tools. The enterprise offer has no limit, and is meant for anyone from 1 to hundreds of thousands who need the full admin/IT rights and controlls. This version is not just a next version of BPOS but also includes access to the Office client bits themselves, sold on a subscription basis.
Reading about all the excitement is great, but I have not seen a lot about how it works. As admin for my small organization, I would like to know how mailbox features and such will migrate. For instance, some users have many mailboxes and some have multiple profles as well. How are these assets migrated and backed up? For some of our users, Outlook has been the way we assure that Google mail is recoverable if the user does something dumb to their mailbox. Desktop Outlook actually did save one user who's Comcast mailbox was somehow wiped out. Neither of those organizations has been helpful in recovering past files. The only assurances they give are that the current mail is accessible. I would like to see some details about how 365 works.
@Allen_MSFT: Thank you for the information Allen. I will send you an email with my feedback and hope to see more info about the products soon and by that I mean indepth technical information and demonstrations. I am sure many of us partners would like to see more about what's under the hood.
Is the chatter within the industry, with respect to an expected release of Office 365, somewhat accurate or +/- a few months? My primary concern is selling BPOS seats to folks today, only to have these folks adjust fire and do it all over again when O365 is released. When engaging clients or potential clients interested in MSO/Cloud Services, it is challenging to sell BPOS and then discuss O365; more often that not, the organization is going to prefer to hold off on the BPOS offering and wait for O365.
Honesty being the best policy, of course I have to discuss both products and services; my secondary concern is how long will I have to keep potential clients in the sales cycle pending a release should they choose to wait?
Quick soapbox moment:
In my experience, the Microsoft Beta programs have always been pretty fair; they always give priority to partners and groups of organizations. I would expect that these resources focus on the organization(s) that will not only use the application as they would day-to-day, but also push the application to the limits; preferably make it puke as many times as possible so the finished product I pay for is rock solid. I am very angry I am not involved in the beta program, however my anger is focused correctly, at myself. I am very angry with myself, that I didn't get signed on in time to make the beta-program. Yet, it's my fault I was not on-time, and really isn't that the root of it all? Snooze, you lose; and reminder to self, "Stop taking so many fricken naps".
@Dusty: Here are some details on migration, dealing more specifically with BPOS but they apply to Office 365. www.microsoft.com/.../details.aspx. What type of solutions are you looking for migration information on? Exchange deployments will be able to be migrated, and migration through POP and IMAP is also possible (for gmail or other solutions like Comcast email.) You should also be able to migrate messages stored in Outlook, although I am not particularly familiar with the process. Your information is stored in PST files, that can move. As for redundancy, our datacenters are very secure and your data is backed up in several for added protection, although I don't really have details publicly available about specifics yet.
@Abby: I look forward to hearing your feedback, and personally I can tell you my blog calender is becoming increasingly product detail focused, although mostly starting after the holidays.
@Bill: Thanks for the comment. Couple of responses...
1) Depends on when the chatter is saying :)? All we've said thus far is 2011, so that is really the best answer I can give you. Sorry for the lack of clarity, but if you are in software at all (and it sounds like you are) you know there are always so many variables, especially in the cloud/hosting space, and we are using this beta to make sure we are going to provide an amazing experience for our eventual customers. I understand the frustration (believe me I'd love to tell everyone and make people happy), but it is more important to utilize all the great feedback we are getting on the product to finalize/tweak, than to launch early and have bad customer experiences. Testing the reliability, security, uptime, bandwidth of our servers is crucial and these beta's help us do that.
2) As for your sales question: It sounds like you are a partner, if so we have PowerPoint decks for Partners that should be available to you through your partner portal/contacts, specifically on how to talk to Office 365 and BPOS together. I'm not familiar with the exact steps to get them off the top of my head, if you don't have access email me at Office365@microsoft.com and I'll see what I can do.
It is helpful to re-assure those parties interested that this is not a software solution. If you buy BPOS and deploy today, you will be migrated at no cost to Office 365 in the year after it becomes available. That is the wonderful thing about Cloud services is that as updates become available, you are privy to them and don't have to worry about what version you are on. BPOS is still the best way to the cloud today, and should not be a sales stopper as it is not an either or option. I think convincing them first of the power of the cloud would be the best option to calm their fears. More details on the transition from BPOS to Office 365 can be found here: blogs.technet.com/.../getting-to-microsoft-174-office-365-how-existing-bpos-customers-make-the-transition.aspx
Does this help at all?
Are they any benefits to migrate from Exchange 2010 vs Exchange 2007?
@BPOS user: To clarify, I believe you asking if it is easier to migrate from Exchange 2007 SERVER or Exchange 2010 server to Office 365? The answer there is no, you will be able to fully migrate either to Office 365.
We recently migrated our internal Exchange server over to BPOS and though we are new to it, are already pushing Sharepoint online to its limits. I am kinda salivating at the opportunity to see Sharepoint in Office 365.
I have to stay away from this blog for a couple of months. Right now, I'm just too curious.
@Mouhamad: :) thanks glad to hear you are loving BPOS! No need to stay away, join in here and get even more excited! If you are just getting into SharePoint Online, it might be good to watch this presentation from TechEd. You might be past here, but it shows a lot of how it will work in Office 365.
Woops here is the link: www.msteched.com/.../OFS317
First, I'm very excited about Office 365.
However, you may or may not be aware of this but when you fill out the Beta Form on the Office 365 web page at office365.microsoft.com/.../office365-beta.aspx you are given a message that states "Thank you for your interest in Office 365. You will receive a confirmation e-mail shortly." I know about 10 people who have independently signed up for the Beta but have never recieved an email.
I realize from reading your blog post above that you are not letting everyone into the Beta. That is fine, but please don't tell people when they sign up that you will be contacting them shortly if you have no intention of doing so. Some of my clients have already gotten a bad feeling about Office 365 because they tried to sign up for the Beta and never got any response. Please don't build ill will. Not everyone in the world reads this blog. Please be more upfront with people signing up for the Beta about what the process is.
Thank-you, and I'm eagerly awaiting more news about Office 365.
Can you please react on the comment of @Jannis?!
"I am a partner and I would like to know whether there password expiration ist strictly enforced in Office 365. I have had lots of customers that don't want to change their password every month or so. Could you get me some input on this?"
I got a little bit frustrated with the current password policy and especially the fact that the MSOnline Webcare team and MVP's are saying the password policy can be disabled, but when you open a ticket, Tech Support says they won't disable password policy's anymore.
As a partner I have to reset passwords several times a week and some customers are planning to migrate to Google Apps.
I agree that security should be first, but most SME's don't have that strict AD Policy's so many users are not familiar with changing passwords every 90 days!
@Zack Moore: Thank you for you comment Zach. I'll investigate and raise the issue with my team. Again, we appreciate you candid thoughts.
@Maarten: Password expiration is enabled by default (90 days)
For Beta and GA, this setting can only be changed (per user account) by contacting Support.
Post GA, administrators will be able to enable/disable this setting through our platform PowerShell API, at the user level.
So your options at the user level are 90 days or never.
Hope this helps,