Blog Archive

New Office 365 Plans for Small Business

Update August 2014 – We’re proud to be working with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars on the Microsoft Cloud platform.  In this recording we go through the new Office 365 Business plans.

In almost every cloud event we run, I mention how frequently cloud services change.  Think about Office; there’s Office 2013.  Before that came Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003 and so on.  A nice predictable release cadence of three years or so.  A similar pattern exists with server products and OSs.  The cloud has a much faster release cycle and from October 1st there will be new Office 365 plans for small business: Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium.  All three of these are aimed at the small and medium business (SMB) market and will replace the current lineup (Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business) by late 2015.

 

New office 365 Plans

 

This is a nice improvement on the current, fragmented SMB position, because you can now mix these three plans to your hearts content, up to 300 seats of each.  You cannot currently mix and match Small Business and Midsized Business plans.  The 300 seat limit is per plan, not per tenant, so you can have up to 900 seats across these three plans if necessary.

Office 365 new plans described

 

Before you get too excited, these plans also have clear omissions.

Office 365 business Plan vs ProPlus

Office 365 Business doesn’t include the Office apps and features that Midsize Business did; Access and Lync.  I think this is almost the wrong way around.  Access shouldn’t be chosen over SQL Server for enterprises and SMB love the power that Access can bring.  Lync is marvellous for all types of organisation and shouldn’t be limited to just enterprise.

My personal position remains that customers and partners should start with the Office 365 Enterprise plans and then work downwards if absolutely necessary, not the other way around:

  1. There’s more choice with the Enterprise family of services, not just plans E1, E3 and E4 but all of the standalones
  2. You can mix and match so office users can go for plan E3 for example whilst lighter workers may just require hosted email
  3. More control over the Office installation and updates via the admin centre
  4. More services to grow into when you’re ready, without having to consider migrating to a higher plan
  5. Lower cost entry point: Small Business Premium is £8.40 per user per month; Exchange Online is just £2.60 per user per month
  6. Lots more reasons but I forget them

Here’s the FAQ which covers a lot more detail.


Is Office 365 Subject to the Patriot Act?

Great Seal of the United States

 

David from Newcastle upon Tyne asks “is Office 365 subject to the Patriot Act?”

This is a very common question when dealing with cloud services, not just office 365.  In short, the USA Patriot Act makes lawful access to stored data easier in certain instances.  If the request is lawful and obligatory, Microsoft cannot simply refuse.  Nor can any other company.  And don’t forget, the UK has similar powers and made almost as many law enforcement disclosure requests as the US between July 2013 and December 2013 (4,213 requests from the UK against 5,652 from the US).

Customers can be assured that Microsoft follows clear principles in responding to any government legal demands for customer data (whether from the US government, UK or other bodies):

There must be a valid subpoena or legal equivalent before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s non-content data to law enforcement;
There must be a court order or warrant before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s content data;
In each instance, Microsoft carefully examines the requests received for a customer’s information to make sure they are in accord with the laws, rules and procedures that apply.

Because Microsoft is committed to transparency in regards to who has access to customers’ data, when and under what circumstances, they publish the details of the number of demands they receive each year in a Law Enforcement Requests Report which is updated twice a year.  They have just released a report on US government requests (as opposed to law enforcement requests) and between January 2013 and June 2013 there were less than 1,000 orders seeking disclosure of customer content.  Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs highlights that “while our customers number hundreds of millions… only a fraction of a percent of our users are affected by these orders.”

It’s also possible for customers on Microsoft’s cloud services to find out whether someone has accessed their data.

Due to the frequency of this question, the Office 365 Trust Centre is a useful source of information around privacy and transparency.


Internal Use Rights for Software

A question from Nigel: “Do MS Partners have to take out MAP or a Silver/Gold Competency to get access to Office 365?”

Excellent question Nigel and I fear you already know the answer; yes.

Internal use rights (IUR) are licences that allow companies to use selected Microsoft software for their production use.  As you can imagine this can save thousands.  So why does Microsoft allow this and how can commercial companies get these?

Why Does Microsoft Allow Internal Use Rights?

Why do Ford sales staff drive Ford company cars?  They don’t normally need to travel as they’re showroom-based.  The dealership tends to do this so the salespeople understand the product better and that translates into sales figures.  Microsoft wants their partner channel to do the same.  The amount of partners I see that aren’t using Office 2013 on their primary machines is pretty high and these are often the same partners that struggle to sell Office 2013.  Use the software and you’ll soon discover little gems that make brilliant anecdotes, demos and proof points for customers.

How Can a Partner Obtain Internal Use Rights?

Up until the early part of 2014, any organisation registered on the Microsoft Partner Network could enrol into a program called Cloud Essentials which allowed partners to sell Office 365 and other cloud solutions.  Becoming a registered partner is free and very easy; my mum could do it.  Furthermore, becoming a Cloud Essentials partner was easy.  It required no minimum purchase and just involved taking an online test (which shows you the answers afterwards) and signing an online agreement.  Again, my mum could have registered, taken the test once, got it wrong but noted the answers and taken it again.  Cloud Essentials partners then had access to 250 seats of Office 365 E3 plan, 100 seats of Dynamics CRM online as well as Intune.  This was over £50,000 in software and more than most small and medium business (SMB) partners required.  It also devalued ‘real’ partners.  By that I mean Microsoft has a lot of inactive registered partners; companies that perhaps only registered to get access to a webpage that asked them to register or companies that only registered to gain the IUR.  I’ve even seen a couple of registrations where the partner’s registered web address was along the lines of Daddy@TheStevensFamily.org (names changed to protect the innocent).

Cloud Essentials is now closed to new enrolments and existing IUR benefits will not be renewed at the end of the enrolment period for those partners who were Cloud Essentials partners.

Internal Use Rights are now obtained by purchasing a Microsoft Action Pack (MAP) or by gaining a competency (e.g. Small Business, Communications, Server Platform or Learning).  Simply being a registered partner (aka community) does not accrue IUR.  This makes them harder to obtain but means Microsoft are concentrating on committed partners.  IUR have also changed to become more flexible as they allow partners to allocate their licences on-premises, in the cloud or as a mixture of both.  At the time of writing the Action Pack subscription costs £310 + VAT.  Competency fees vary according to the competency you earn but are in the ball park of £1,000-£2,000 for Silver and £2,000-£3,500 for Gold.

Microsoft partner Network Levels

Again, as a guide an Action Pack would earn 10 Windows 8.1 Pro licences and 5 Office licences which can be a mix of Office 2013 on-premises or Office 365 E3.  This is in addition to a host of other software titles.  A Silver competency would earn 25 windows 8.1 Pro and 25 office licences.  A Gold competency would earn 100 of each.

Partners who were enrolled in Cloud Essentials could enjoy £65 of free credit for Microsoft Azure per month; the offer states this is no longer available but it will continue for previously-enrolled Cloud Essentials Partners.  I’m hoping this free credit will still be available to any registered partner but I’m yet to test this.  Looks like I’ll need to set up one of those Daddy@TheStevensFamily.org partner accounts.

For more information on the number of licences you can obtain through IUR as well as how to increase the IUR seats, you can read this page directly on the Microsoft Partner Network.

If you currently enjoy IUR and you want to read up on the transition, this Cloud IUR guide will help you.


Office 365 Roadmap

The Office 365 roadmap monthly email is a thing of beauty.  It lays out the changes and service improvements to the Office 365 Services, billing and licensing for 3-6 months ahead with the information coming directly from the product team.  Essential for keeping up to date with such a regularly changing service.  However it was always under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so recipients weren’t allowed to disclose the contents.  Not even with a nod and a wink.

Office 365 Public Roadmap

The public roadmap site was announced yesterday and can accessed via the OnRamp site.

Office 365 Roadmap shot

In addition to the public roadmap, there’s also a new program called First Release which allows customers (once they opt-in) the opportunity to get significant enhancements to Office 365 at least two weeks before customers in the standard release group.

Please read the blog release for more details on the Office 365 Roadmap, the First Release program and an FAQ.

And importantly, bookmark that futures page!


Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Bootcamp Content

We recently had the pleasure of co-presenting a series of bootcamp events for Microsoft resellers alongside HP and Zynstra.  The content covered Windows Server 2012 R2, Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Service Provider Licence Agreements (SPLA), HP Hardware and Zynstra cloud appliances.

If you would find the content useful, we’ve made the available for you to download: the Microsoft and Zynstra slides and the HP slides.  Nothing like attending an event in person of course so if this kind of event is of interest to you please do contact us as there may be some upcoming events we can let you know about.


Activate Office 365 Partner Features

A question from David in Romford: How does a partner activate the Office 365 control panel for all their clients?

The partner features enable you to act as a delegated admin on behalf of your customer’s account; useful tasks such as adding new users, assigning licences, resetting passwords and raising support calls to Microsoft.  The partner features also allow you to create and send purchase offers and trial invitations for Office 365 plans and packages.

The process of activating the partner features is simple enough to set up but varies depending on whether you have an online account (Intune or Office 365) already or not.

I explain the process in Webinar 2 of the Building an Office 365 Practice series we ran in conjunction with Ingram Micro (partner features are explained at 40’44 into the video).  You can also view a (slightly outdated) presentation from Microsoft which includes a bit more detail and extra screenshots.

 

Activate Office 365 Partner Features

1TB for OneDrive for Business

Microsoft OneDrive for BusinessMicrosoft are announcing increased storage from 25GB to 1TB per user for all OneDrive for Business customers.  This includes customers that have OneDrive for Business as part of their Office 365 ProPlus subscription.

Although this is immediate, it may take a few months to roll the change out to all customers.

You can read the full release in the Office.com blog.


Do Office 365 Keys Expire?

Person recording a podcastA question from Daniel: “I am sure that one of you mentioned that it’s possible to purchase Office 365 keys in advance under Open and FPP and have up to 5 years to activate them.  Could you please confirm that as we have a client who is interested in buying 3 year term instead of 12 month subscription.”

This is a very common question and there are two terms to remember here.

 

1 – You have five years to redeem (activate) an Office 365 key after the purchase date

2 – You cannot have more than 2 years’ Office 365 service at a time

So if a customer with 100 users has an amount of cash they wish to use in a financial period and they’d like to buy Office 365 plan E3 in advance for several years they can purchase 5 x Office 365 E3 100 user keys.  Office 365 uses dynamic keys, for example if a customer has 25 users, they will receive one 25-digit activation key which will enable all 25 users licences when that key is redeemed.  This also applies to a customer with 100 users: 1 activation key.  So for our example you don’t want to buy 500 E3 licences as that will result in one activation key for 500 users.  Instead, purchase 5 lots of E3 SKUs for 100 users.  That will result in 5 activation keys.  Use the first key in year 1, then when your office 365 service is coming up for renewal pop up to the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre (VLSC) and get the next key for year 2 and so on.

There are risks to this.  Many cloud services have gone down in price so the customer may be losing out by buying future years in advance.  And if they need to downsize to less than 100 users, they can’t change those keys.

Lastly, let’s examine the evidence here as I like to include my sources where possible.

The “Office 365 Open & FPP Business Policy and Service Activation Partner Guide” dated December 2013 lays out some Product Key Subscription Management Policies including:

  • Product Key Subscriptions cannot have more than two (2) years of service time outstanding.
  • To renew a Product Key Subscription, the Product Key required must include a greater than or equal to number of user licenses as is already assigned to the service.

The “Office 365 Open & Office 365 FPP FAQ” updated November 22nd, 2013 states “Product keys must be redeemed within 5 years from the time that they are purchased from Microsoft.”

 


Building an Office 365 Practice

We’re proud to be working in conjunction with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars aimed at small and medium business (SMB) partners who want to start or grow their Microsoft Cloud practice.  You can view each webinar live by registering through Ingram’s Learn smart website or you can view the recordings below.

Webinar 1: Office 365 from the ground to the cloud – the basics

Covering the initial information that every partner needs to start selling Office 365.

Webinar 2: Making money from selling Microsoft Cloud services

This webinar will detail the route to becoming a cloud partner, benefits to be aware of and ways to sell Office 365.

Webinar 3: Building your Office 365 practice

We look at targeting the most likely customers, objection handling and promotions.

Webinar 4: How to demonstrate Office 365 compellingly

This webinar will provide resources and demonstrations for partners to create effective pitches that sell Office.

Webinar 5: Cross-selling and upselling opportunities

Leverage Office 365 to increase the deal size whilst giving the customer value.

Webinar 6: Office 365 Fasttrack – how it can help you sell and deploy solutions

The Fasttrack program is a three-stage framework for rapidly piloting Office 365 and then moving that pilot into deployment.

Webinar 7: Broaden your cloud sale with Windows Azure and Windows Intune

The webinar will cover what Intune and Azure are and how partners can use them in their accounts.

Webinar 8: Preparing for exam 74-325 – Administering Office 365 for Small Business

The newest Office 365 is designed specifically for technical professionals within partners who sell Office 365 solutions to small and medium businesses. This webinar will provide details of resources and the content required to take the exam.


Cloud Essentials – Where Has It Gone?

Registered Microsoft partners who wanted to sell Office 365 and Windows Intune could join the Cloud Essentials program last year.  A large benefit of this was the internal use rights (IUR) for Office 365 and Dynamics CRM.  Cloud Essentials partners would receive 250 seats of E3 to run their company as well as 100 seats of Dynamics CRM.  It’s unlikely that a partner would use that many but the value of those seats alone totalled just under £96,000 per year.

Cloud Essentials no longer exists after February 2014 but what replaces it and how can you obtain IUR for cloud technologies?

I’m assuming you’re familiar with Cloud Essentials but if you’re not, feel free to email us and I’ll be happy to complete the picture.  Briefly, Cloud Essentials was the step required for small and medium business (SMB) partners to receive commission on cloud sales when a customer paid for those cloud services directly with Microsoft.  This step is no longer needed and every registered partner is now ready and enabled to sell cloud and earn fees.  So that’s a real positive.  There is a second tier called Cloud Accelerate which still exists until autumn and offers additional commission tiers for partners as they sell more cloud seats.  There is also Cloud Deployment which is specifically for partners selling cloud to larger enterprises and Azure Circle for partners with an Azure practice.  The following shows the roadmap for the Cloud programs and if you want to flourish as a Microsoft Cloud partner, you are encouraged to gain a competency.

Microsoft Advisor Programs

 

The internal use rights have become harder to obtain but this is a good thing.  Previously pretty much anyone could have obtained these IUR for free just be registering and taking a short multiple choice test.  That’s not what we need from a partner community; we want professional and dedicated partners in the industry; not thousands that just sign up for free software.  Partners must now gain a competency or subscribe to the Action Pack to enjoy IUR.

As a guide, Gold competency partners will receive 100 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 60 seats of CRM Online.  Silver competency partners will receive 25 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 15 seats of CRM Online.  Action Pack partners will receive 5 seats of Office 365 with the ability to earn 5 more seats once they complete an O365 sale of 25 seats.  They will also receive 5 seats of Windows Intune and can receive 5 seats of CRM Online once they sell a CRM Online subscription or 50 seats or Office 365.

All three levels will receive the added benefit of a $100 monthly Azure credit.

Partners will still have on-premises server licenses for development, testing, demonstration use and for internal training.  You can find out more by reading the Cloud IUR document and the MPN IUR page.