After months of email warnings, my own Office 365 migration happened over the last 24 hours. The change was immediate, and aside from a manual SharePoint site collection upgrade, completely seamless. And now everything is different. Different and better.
Back in The Office 365 Upgrade: New Sign-in Experience, I noted that my own Office 365 account (which is Office 365 Small Business) would be upgraded to the new Office 365 version on April 20, 2013. Well, that date has arrived. What’s changed?
On first sign-in to the admin experience, you can see a unmissable Getting Started pane with a quickie three-step wizard that points out a few of the places to explore to see what’s new.
There’s a lot of information here, but let’s look quickly at that Getting Started pane first. As with similar interfaces in products like Windows Sever 2012 Essentials, Getting Started provides handy walk-throughs detailing the steps you should complete to optimally configure Office 365. You can mouse over each of the three main options—Collaboration, Public website and Software—to see that there steps to complete.
In each case, you’re provided with a fairly verbose wizard that does a getting you up to speed. This is important because so much as changed. I recommend taking the time to step through them all.
As I wrote previously, the user experience has been updated to the modern look also employed by Office 2013 (and, in a way, the SkyDrive and Outlook.com web experiences, which certainly share a familial relationship).
First up, the Office 365-wide toolbar, at the top of the web experience, has been updated with many more options, including a new Alerts icon, separated Outlook (email), Calendar and People links (rather than a single Exchange link), three SharePoint-based links (Newsfeed, SkyDrive Pro and Sites), a More (“…”) menu link with Office Store and Office.com links, an Admin link (which was available in the previous version), a user link and menu (which can help you quickly access your own user profile), and Settings and Help.
Looking at the alerts, I see two, one for learning about what’s new and another about upgrading the SharePoint site collection: This can take a bit of time, depending on how much is in there, so it’s not done automatically. But when you do trigger the upgrade, the service ensures that no users can make changes until it is done.
The admin experience is dramatically cleaner and yet also provides more useful information and admin links right up front. (I’ll be examining the Enterprise version of Office 365 in the near future as well; as you might expect, the higher-end Office 365 versions offer significantly more admin features than what’s shown here.)
It's not just the admin experience that's updated: A nice new Getting Started site, with a now-familiar look and feel, helps guide users through the changes as well. (And of course Outlook Web App and SharePoint Online are updated too, as noted in previous articles.)
I’ll be diving into various Office 365 features soon, but first I’m going to look at doing a little upgrade: When I signed up for Office 365 a few years back, I purchased a Small Business subscription. But I’ll be changing this to an Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription, which adds the Office 2013 applications, with five licenses per user. This change isn’t straightforward—you can’t just click an upgrade button, which would be nice—so it’s worth examining how these changes are made.