Monday, July 04, 2011

Why I probably won't subscribe to Office365.

I joined the Office365 beta last month. Although Microsoft's online productivity suite is useful, I probably won't be buying it.

Office365 presents online versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, OneNote Sharepoint, Powerpoint and Lync Messenger.  I am a heavy Outlook and Powerpoint user, and I was very quickly at home using these online applications. I liked the ability to easily share my work product with others for collaboration.

If you are approaching Office365 from the perspective of an Office 2010 desktop app user, you will find the suties a bit incomplete. Although the online apps have a fairly rich GUI, I found the overall performance to be sluggish. But I could live with sluggish performance if necessary.

As a small business owner (6 employees, distributed), what really got me excited about Office365 beta  was the opportunity to have access to a collaborative suite that was familiar to my employees.  We have struggled to share documents efficiently but have ruled out hosting Sharepoint because of costs.  Office365 holds the promise to be a good alternative for us. 

I also thought that we could really benefit from Microsfot hosted email.  Our SMTP email accounts are on a shared email server.  If any other email users on a different domain hosted by our shared server misbehaves,  then our email begins to bounce as our email server IP address is posted on the SORBS "spam" sever list. SORBS makes our lives harder when our emails suddenly and without warning begin to bounce back to us (I hate SORBS for their irresponsible machine gun approach to spam, but thats another post).  The idea of using a Microsoft hosted email server and a rich online Outlook client to complement our local Outlook 2010 apps seemed like a no brainer.

But then I learned that someone at Microsoft made the mistake of presuming that one Office365 user will have one email address. This is not an unusual mistake for Microsoft to make, since they are a gigantic business and have completely forgotten what it is like to operate a small business. But restricting users to one email account is a very silly policy. As a small business owner, I answer to many email addresses, including sales@, support@, info@, webmaster@, and several others.  This alone is a deal killer for many small businesses -- no way will I pay $6 per email address, and I shouldn't have to restructure my business around Microsoft's arbitrary email account restrictions.
The problem with Office365, from my perspective, is that we are looking at it as a way to complement our existing Office 2010 software (which we have already bought and paid for) and our collaborative processes, and I think Office365 will do this very well. 

Although Office365 shows great promise to server small businesses, Microsoft needs to quickly go back and fix these pricing and structural missteps.  The essence of my gripes are rooted in policy and pricing mistakes, not software mistakes.  If they do this, they may find themselves with a competitive online office suite offering that small businesses like mine will flock to.


Anonymous said...

Actually you can add additional SMTP addresses without charge:

Microsoft charges per user account and not per email address or mailbox.

You can also add resource mailboxes and externally mail-enabled distribution lists if you have several people at your company too - for example

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are absolutely right. It wasn't easy, but the instructions you pointed out did show how to do this. This was a major stumbling block for me. It shouldn't be this hard, but at least it works. Thank you.