Microsoft has released a new advisor (a web-based wizard) to help companies figure out whether there’s a right Office 365 for them and if so, what is the recommended plan. The cynic in me says that there will always be an Office 365 for everyone, just like Santa Claus comes to every child who has behaved themselves during the preceding year. Leaving cynicism aside, let’s applaud Microsoft for providing some help while wondering at the same time whether they could have just simplified the array of plans and options that they offer for Office 365.
Anyway, using the advisor is simplicity itself. After clicking on the appropriate link, you enter how many employees are in your company (see below) to begin a short Q&A session to allow the advisor figure out what plan’s for you. Questions are posed to determine the degree of support you need for IT applications (for example, you have an on-site IT manager) and what kind of existing solution is in place. This spans anything from a free consumer-based system such as Hotmail or Gmail to a full-blown on-premises deployment of something like Exchange 2010. Depending on your answers, you could be asked about other factors such as what version of Office might be deployed today.
After gathering all the data, the advisor tells you whether it can recommend a plan. Once you get past your excitement at discovering that yes indeed, the advisor has a plan for you, another click brings you to the recommendation together with an indication of the monthly cost, which is calculated based on the number of employees that you entered multiplied by the U.S. price. Of course, Microsoft has different pricing models in place for Office 365 across the world and the cost shown here isn’t necessarily what you’ll pay unless you are in the U.S. The advisor web site doesn’t seem to make any attempt to detect the location of the person asking for a recommendation based on the IP address of their computer so that it could translate the price for the local market, but maybe this is an optimization that will come in the future.
I input a number of scenarios into the advisor and agreed with its recommendations. This doesn’t imply that I am as smart as any of Microsoft’s advisors because this is obviously not the case. I think it means that it’s not too difficult to figure out what is the best Office 365 for a small company, providing you take the time to read the documentation. But now you have a web advisor, who is going to do that?