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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!
Thanks for your response!
I also found a PPT of Neil Johnson (TechNet Berlin) where he mentions that the PasswordExpiration attribute is added to the MOSI API.
One final question, is the PasswordExpiration attribute persistent or will it be reset when an users changes his password?!
I@Maarten: Pretty sure it is persistent, but to be honest, I'll have to get in touch with someone from engineering to confirm.
I would appreciate it very much when you can check this!
Expired passwords in BPOS have resulted in a lot of work for me (to reset them and support customers) and angry customers. Most of the customers prefer Exchange Online over Google Apps, but this is a real show stopper.
Hi, is the beta available in switzerland?
@Roberto: Unfortunately it is not at this time. It will be coming there before GA though.
@Maarten: What are they angry about? After password expiration, they should just be forced to enter a new one, not be locked out. Would really love to hear your experience of why this results in extra work for you, so I can pass along to the development teams. That would be very appreciated.
Because users simply forget their passwords...
It has something to do with the difference between North America and Europe;
1) The percentage SME companies in Europe is bigger then in the USA
2) Most SME's in Europe don't have strict password policy's enforced in AD
3) So most users are not used to change their password on a regular base!
4) It happens quite often users get confused by all different credentials and forget the password they have to change most often!
5) the last thing you want to hear is a CEO calling for the second or third time telling he couldn't access his email...
I know the possibility of ADFS in Office 365, but I don't think this is a real solution for a SME connected to the Internet over a DSL connection.
Don't get me wrong, I think it is good to have a secure solution, but it's just a bridge too far..
I hope this will give you some insights!
@Maarten: Confirmed with engineering, password expiration "...is set to 90 days and is not configurable", but that on an individual user basis, this can be "Enabled" or "Disabled". So you can go in and make the users account never have a password expiration policy, regardless of how often they change their password.
As for your feedback, I appreciate it and will pass it along.
With Office 365 it really seems that Microsoft is trying to push it's SPLA partners out of the way. If Office 365 Basic goes on sale for 6$/user/month, the SPLA pricing for the various components that make up O365 Basic is near 24$/month. Is it accurate to say that Microsoft is trying to slowly phase out the SPLA ?
I'd like to echo the partner frustration. We are a SharePoint focussed Gold Partner and I am current writing a End User book for SharePoint 2010. We still dont have access to the beta. This is very frustrating and really a bit embarassing when we try to have a converation about Office 365 with out customers.
How about including partners with the new Gold & Silver SharePoint network competencies?
It's really fun to keep getting SPAM from Microsoft over the last several months telling me all about the great Office365 product features. It's also entertaining to hear how much beta users are loving this product. However, it really sucks to be notified that the product is not available to partners or the general public yet. I'll keep all of this in mind when I start sending out announcements next week for my development of a space colony on Mars.
@George: comments on pricing or future plans for SPLA are probably not going to be posted here by MS employees, but you might have witnessed a similar effect when the appearance of BPOS pissed off a lot of "hosted Exchange" providers due to the pricing model in SPLA being considerably more expensive that what BPOS is selling for. Niches will remain, but the "commodity" services where people just do not care (much) about the details are likely to become a bad candidate for SPLA.
It's a real shame to see so many comments from Microsoft partner, who feel left out in the cold. Get used to it folks! Microsoft has definately turned their back on the SMB partner, the very same partner who brought them to this point of success! It's clear with the changes in the MPN and the limited Beta partiticpation. Heck, they're even soliciting their partners with employement opportunties, once a big no no!
Its a new decade and with it comes lots of change. Like it or not, its a fact that all us partners will have to find way to succeed, despite Microsoft's effort to derail us from the tracks they laid!
Could you please list the 13 countries that the beta will be available in? Also, is there any list of the first countries that will be able to use the Office365 when the service comes out of beta?
Why Vietnam is not on the list?
Are there any solutions for countries that has a prospect customer but Office 365 not having a plan to deploy?
I want to not even try, but to buy the service, but not a sheer chance, which is quite frustrating.
@Denis I just wanted to make sure I got things right. Basically Microsoft is telling us SPLA outsourcers to go love ourselves. "Thank you for keeping interest in Exchange hosted, we'll take it from here".