|Initial release||June 28, 2011|
|Stable release||2013 / February 27, 2013|
|Type||Online office suite, software plus services|
Serving as a successor to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, the service was originally designed to provide hosted e-mail, social networking and collaboration, and cloud storage to teams and businesses. As such, it first included hosted versions of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, Office Web Apps, along with access to the Microsoft Office 2010 desktop applications on the Enterprise plan. With the release of Office 2013, Office 365 expanded to include new plans aimed at different types of businesses, along with new plans aimed at general consumers wanting to use the Office desktop software on a subscription basis.
After a beta testing process which began in October 2010, Office 365 was officially launched on June 28, 2011.
Microsoft first announced Office 365 in October 2010; beginning with a private beta with various organizations, leading into a public beta in April 2011, and reaching general availability on June 28, 2011. Facing growing competition from Google's similar service Google Apps, Microsoft designed the Office 365 platform to "[bring] together" its existing online services (such as the Business Productivity Online Suite) into "an always-up-to-date cloud service" incorporating Exchange Server (for e-mail), SharePoint (for internal social networking, collaboration, and a public web site), and Lync (for communication, VoIP, and conferencing). Plans were initially launched for small business and enterprises; the small business plan offered Exchange e-mail, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, web hosting via SharePoint, and the Office Web Apps, with the enterprise plan also adding per-user licenses for the Office 2010 Professional Plus software and 24/7 phone support. Following the official launch of the service, Business Productivity Online Suite customers were given 12 months to plan and perform their migration from BPOS to the Office 365 platform.
With the release of Office 2013, an updated version of the Office 365 platform was launched on February 27, 2013. The server components were updated to their respective 2013 versions, and Microsoft expanded the Office 365 service with new plans, such as Small Business Premium, Midsize Premium, and Pro Plus. A new Office 365 Home Premium plan aimed at home users was also introduced; the new plan offers access to the Office 2013 suite for up to five computers, along with expanded SkyDrive (now OneDrive) storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls monthly. The plan is aimed at mainstream consumers, especially those who want to install Office on multiple computers. A University plan was also introduced, targeted towards users going to post-secondary education. With these new offerings, Microsoft began to offer prepaid Office 365 subscriptions through retail outlets alongside the normal, non-subscription-based editions of Office 2013.
On March 19, 2013, Microsoft detailed its plans to provide integration with the enterprise social networking platform Yammer (which they had acquired in 2012) for Office 365: such as the ability to use a single sign-on between the two services, shared feeds and document aggregation, and the ability to entirely replace the SharePoint news feed and social functionality with Yammer. The ability to provide a link to a Yammer network from an Office 365 portal was introduced in June 2013, with heavier integration (such a Yammer app for SharePoint and single sign-on) to be introduced in July 2013.
On July 8, 2013, Microsoft unveiled PowerBI, a suite of business intelligence and self-serve data mining tools for Office 365, to be released later in the year. PowerBI is primarily incorporated into Excel, allowing users to use the Power Query tool to create spreadsheets and graphs using public and private data, and also perform geovisualization with Bing Maps data using the Power Map tool (previously available as a beta plug-in known as GeoFlow). Users will also be able to access and publish reports, and perform natural language queries on data. As a limited time offer for certain markets (but notably excluding the U.S.), Microsoft also announced that those who purchase an Office 365 Home Premium or University subscription before September 28, 2013 would receive a one-year Xbox Live Gold subscription.
In March 2014, Microsoft announced that it would rename the "Home Premium" plan to "Home", and add a new "Personal" plan for single users; these new options officially launched on April 15, 2014. In June 2014, the amount of OneDrive storage offered to Office 365 subscribers was increased to 1 terabyte from 20 GB.
The Office 365 service consists of a number of products and services. All of Office 365's components can be managed and configured through an online portal; users can be added manually, imported from a CSV file, or Office 365 can be set up for single sign-on with a local Active Directory using Active Directory Federation Services.
Business and enterprise-oriented plans for Office 365 offer access to cloud hosted versions of Office's server platforms on a software as a service basis, including Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and the browser-based Office Web Apps suite. Through SharePoint's OneDrive for Business functionality (formally known as SharePoint MySites and SkyDrive Pro, and distinct from the consumer-oriented OneDrive service), each user also receives 7 GB of online storage.
In lieu of Microsoft's enterprise software, the Home Premium plan for Office 365 instead includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage for each user, along with 60 minutes of phone calls per month on Skype.
Some plans for Office 365 also include access to the current versions of the Office desktop applications for both Windows (Office 2013) and OS X (Office for Mac 2011) for the period of the subscription. In the case of Office 2013 on Windows, it is installed using a "Click-to-Run" system which allows users to begin using the applications almost instantaneously while files are streamed in the background. Updates to the software are installed automatically, covering both security updates and major new versions of Office. A feature known as "Office on Demand" is also available, which allows users to temporarily stream an Office 2013 application on any compatible computer without needing to fully install it.
The Office 365 platform uses a rolling release model; updates to the online components of the service are provided once per quarter. On launch, the 2010 versions of server components were used with Office 365. These services were automatically upgraded to their Office 2013 counterparts upon its release in February 2013. With the introduction of Office 2013, Office division head Kurt DelBene stated that minor and incremental updates to the Office desktop software would be provided on a similarly periodic basis to all Office 365 users by means of the streaming system, as opposed to the three-year cycle for major releases of Office that had been used to the past.
In December 2011, Microsoft announced that the Office 365 platform was now compliant with the ISO/IEC 27001 security standards, the European Union's Data Protection Directive (through the signing of model clauses), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for health care environments in the United States. At the same time, Microsoft also unveiled a new "Trust Center" portal, containing further information on its privacy policies and security practices for the service. In May 2012, Microsoft announced that Office 365 was now compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act: compliance with the act would now allow Office 365 to be used by U.S. government agencies.
Office 365 is available in a number of different subscription plans aimed at different needs and market segments, providing different sets of features at different price points. These include:
- Office 365 Personal: Includes access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access for home/non-commercial use on one computer and one Windows 8 tablet, 1 TB of additional OneDrive storage, and 60 minutes of Skype international calls per month. A version of Personal purchased on a discounted four-year plan, known as Office 365 University, is available for those in post-secondary institutions.
- Office 365 Home: Aimed at mainstream consumers and families; same as Personal, but for use on up to five devices by up to five users. Formerly known as Home Premium.
- Office 365 Small Business: Offers access to hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services only.
- Office 365 Small Business Premium: Aimed at businesses with 1-10 employees and limited IT experience. Offers access to the Office applications on up to five devices per user, plus hosted Exchange (with 50 GB mailbox), SharePoint (with 10 GB of storage, plus an additional 500 MB per user), and Lync services.
- Office 365 ProPlus: Offers access to the Office 2013 Professional Plus applications for up to 25 users on up to five devices per user.
- Office 365 Midsize Business: Aimed at businesses with 10-300 employees. Offers access to the Office 2013 applications from ProPlus, plus hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services.
- Office 365 Enterprise: Intended for use in enterprise environments. Offers access to all Office applications, hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services, plus enterprise-specific legal compliance features and support.
|Word Online||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||View attachments only|
|Excel Online||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||View attachments only|
|OneNote Online||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||View attachments only|
|PowerPoint Online||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||View attachments only|
|OneDrive storage per user||15 GB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB||Nothing|
|Web conferencing, presence, and IM||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|File storage and sharing||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Intranet site for teams||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
- Windows PC client programs and/or features only. Cannot be used across devices.
TechRadar gave the 2013 update of Office 365 a 4.5 out of 5, praising its administration interfaces for being accessible to users with any level of expertise, the seamless integration of SkyDrive Pro into the Office 2013 desktop applications, and the service as a whole for being suitable in small business environments, while still offering "powerful" options for use in larger companies (such as data loss protection and the ability to integrate with a local Active Directory instance). However, the service was panned for how it handled its 2013 update for existing users, and its lack of integration with services such as Skype and Yammer.
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