There are a number of possible Lync clients including the Lync Windows Store App (Modern UI), Lync Web App and mobile Lync clients for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The most likely alternative for users will be Lync Basic which is a no-cost application to connect to Lync Online or Lync Server. For users already on Office 365 Small Business Premium or Midsize Business plans who are upgrading to the new Business plans, the update process will uninstall the Access & Lync applications and users will be able to download Lync Basic from their software portal in Office 365.
Although the functionality of Lync Basic was recently updated to more closely match that of the full Office Lync client, there are some quite significant differences including the lack of spellchecker for instant messages (after a long time of asking Microsoft to add a spell checker to Lync, losing it now is disappointing), using OneNote for Lync meeting notes and the ability to record meetings. Some features are not so relevant for SMB customers and there are also features which require on-premises Lync Server or SharePoint Server such as Skill Search and Persistent Chat; those features would not be available to Office 365 users even with the full Lync client.
Microsoft have to please over a billion users of Office so there will always be some elements that people aren’t so keen on. You can tell we’re being diplomatic here can’t you? I must admit I stayed with the Windows Classic start menu when I used Windows Vista back in the day.
I had a question from a user at Land Securities during an Office demonstration session. The person was working on a small device and the Word print preview in Office 2010 and 2013 only shows the document in half the window. He missed the old print preview dialogue box where he could view the document as full screen.
When features of Office are deprecated, some of them remain in the product but are moved into the background. This is one of those features. To access the old-style Print Preview window you need to customise the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar. Let’s use the Quick Access Toolbar for our example. To add commands to the toolbar, click the arrow to the far right. As the command in question is not in the common commands list, select More Commands….
This will show the Customise Quick Access Toolbar page in the options window. Click on the dropbox and select All Commands to display an alphabetical list of all the Word commands; a surprising number of them.
Scroll down in the list until you see Print Preview Edit Mode. Double-click the command to add it to your Quick Access Toolbar.
And now you have the Office 2007 style Print Preview window at the touch of a button.
Whether it will still be there in the next version of Office is anyone’s guess of course, so caveat emptor or another suitable Latin phrase for be careful when using old Office commands.
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.
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.
Before you get too excited, these plans also have clear omissions.
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:
There’s more choice with the Enterprise family of services, not just plans E1, E3 and E4 but all of the standalones
You can mix and match so office users can go for plan E3 for example whilst lighter workers may just require hosted email
More control over the Office installation and updates via the admin centre
More services to grow into when you’re ready, without having to consider migrating to a higher plan
Lower cost entry point: Small Business Premium is £8.40 per user per month; Exchange Online is just £2.60 per user per month
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Microsoft 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.
A 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.