MICROSOFT ONLINE SERVICES

Microsoft Online Services

I am happy to announce that Microsoft formally unveiled Microsoft Online Services today.

I am a Microsoft partner authorized to sell and support Microsoft Online Services. I expect to set up many of my clients with Exchange Online for their mail. If you’re interested, please call me or drop me a note! I do not need to be in your geographic area to assist you with this.

This is the first big step by Microsoft to deliver online services directly to customers, part of its effort to redefine the entire company and move some of your data to the online cloud. I’ve already written up the background information you need to understand Microsoft Online Services – click here for information about where this comes from and how it fits in your world.

Basically, each Outlook mailbox is hosted by Microsoft for a monthly fee. (An Outlook “mailbox” is the term for the entire set of Outlook folders, including contacts, tasks and calendar.) The hosted Exchange service allows you to connect to your Outlook folders in a variety of ways:

  • MULTIPLE COMPUTERS  The same Outlook folders can be displayed on multiple computers at multiple locations. You can use your Outlook folders seamlessly from a desktop computer at the office, a desktop computer at home, and a notebook computer on the road, and Outlook is always up to date at all locations.
  • MULTIPLE LOCATIONS  Office workers can be linked together and share Outlook folders even if they are in different offices.
  • WEBMAIL  Outlook folders can be accessed online through Outlook Web Access – full access to all Outlook folders presented in Internet Explorer, like other webmail services.
  • PHONE  Windows Mobile 6 devices can sync email, calendar, and contacts over the air continuously.
  • SHARING  Calendars and address lists can be shared with other people in the office.
  • SECURITY  Microsoft provides virus and spam filtering.
  • REDUCED COSTS  Microsoft is responsible for backups, database maintenance, security updates, and upgrades.

Microsoft has put together a very robust service that will be used by businesses of all sizes, including big enterprises that want to outsource their mail. It is best suited for small businesses if they fit within these parameters:

  • The company has a domain name for mail, or wants to begin using one.
  • There are a minimum of five email users.
  • All computers are running Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business (or Ultimate), and all computers have Microsoft Outlook 2007 (or are prepared to buy it).
  • The company is not set up with Small Business Server, which already includes Exchange Server. (It’s possible to combine service from Microsoft with the onsite Small Business Server but I’m not sure the benefit would justify the cost for very small businesses.)
  • In addition to the $10/month cost per mailbox, there will be some setup costs. You don’t want to set this service up without assistance! As with anything new these days, I’m learning about hundreds of quirks and potential pitfalls as I set up clients. Call me before you sign up!

Here’s Microsoft’s press release about the new services, which include Sharepoint and other online services.

Other companies also offer hosted Exchange mailboxes which might be better matches for some people. I’ll write more about those soon. Start to think about the advantages of having access to your Outlook folders from anywhere!