With SharePoint Online, in Office 365 (the newly renamed BPOS you may still remember fondly), “we recognized that every segment of the business market is different—we wanted to allow them to tailor SharePoint to fit their needs,” says Ben Tamblyn, senior product manager for SharePoint Online.
The biggest draw about SharePoint Online, says Tamblyn, could be the ability to take SharePoint to places beyond the enterprise. “We’re providing options that are appropriate for businesses of all sizes. Enterprise capabilities have been out of reach for smaller and mid-sized businesses.”
Broken down into its simplest form, he says, SharePoint Online is “really an app.” The design of SharePoint Online is geared to people who want to create sites, share content, and share with clients outside.
He cites 3 typical usage cases:
1. Kiosk workers—manufacturing workers who don’t have a dedicated desktop but need access to SharePoint sites and email. This type of usage case costs approximately $2.00 a month per user.
2. Small business under 25 people—here the basic team sites, email, and lightweight editing through Office Web Apps are seen. The cost would run around $6.00 a month per user.
3. Various levels of enterprise organizations—here you’d see many of the capabilities from SharePoint 2010 plus capabilities from Exchange, Lync, and a rich client version of Office. Depending on what is chosen, the cost would run anywhere from $10 a month per user to $24 a month per user, approximately.
For SharePoint Online, Tamblyn says, you’ll see a big focus on sites: MySites, Intranet sites, extranet sites, and Internet sites. He imagines several pivots that explain SharePoint Online’s focus:
1. Very much personally focused—MySites and social capabilities and permissions make sure every worker can access docs from anywhere.
2. Team site—keeping teams in sync—uses core SharePoint 2010 capabilities—ability to co-author docs in real time, management meeting notes through OneNote meeting app. Office 365 lets you deliver a service for real-time communications through the Lync client. You can schedule an ad hoc meeting or take notes or do a video call from directly within SharePoint.
3. Internet sites—offers a simple and professional public-facing website. Ribbon, video embedding, ability to create rich Internet sites.
4. Intranet sites/Extranet sites—Logical jumping off point for business processes, providing access to policies, expense reports, and other business necessities and providing search capabilities. Can share documents securely with people outside the organization. The ability to add extranet capability to an intranet site has been in SharePoint for a long time, but was hard to set up and to secure. In SharePoint Online, Tamblyn says, it’s simpler and Microsoft is responsible for the security. A click of a few buttons turns an intranet site to an extranet site, and you can allow privileges to a specific party so they can authenticate and access the Internet site externally.
There will still be a role for the SharePoint admin, he says. “We’re focusing on the base level infrastructure. They’ll still set up, manage policies, set up governance, be responsible for corporate taxonomy. But they don’t have to manage and run the infrastructure.”
He cites “significant” cost savings in moving some or all of one’s SharePoint structure to SharePoint Online. And he acknowledges that most organizations interested in moving to SharePoint Online are also still interested in having on-premises SharePoint, a hybrid approach. One advantage to Office 365 is single sign-on capability, whether you’re accessing on-premises or in the cloud, he says.
For current BPOS users, the transition plan for migrating to Office 365 after its general availability should be “a seamless transition—Microsoft will manage your transition.” Because Office 365 is a service, it can be quickly updated and reiterated. Rather like Microsoft’s move into this segment: “Online has created a sea change,” Tamblyn says. “The future of the business is delivering cloud services. I can assure you, the tanker is turning very fast.”
Related articles on Office 365 and SharePoint Online:
Update on SharePoint Product Announcements, by Caroline Marwitz: Get Microsoft's SharePoint Product Manager Eric Swift's take on SharePoint Online
Eric Swift on SharePoint 2010's Value for Developers and Admins, by Sheila Molnar: An interview with Microsoft's General Manager of SharePoint Eric Swift.