Anyone have real-world experience with Microsoft’s “Business Productivity Online Suite” offering?

My agency has a mandate to switch to Microsoft Outlook from a different e-mail platform, and we are also planning on evaluating SharePoint for document sharing, collaboration. automating workflows, etc. Since we’re small (about 125 users), a hosted offering appears to offer some distinct advantages.

I’m curious about Microsoft’s hosted offering b/c it includes two of the products I have to look at supporting anyway. According to Microsoft’s website, the Business Productivity Online Suite currently includes:

– Exchange Online

– SharePoint Online

– Office Live Meeting

And coming soon (whatever that means):

– Office Communication Online

Here’s my big questions: is anyone using this offering yet, and if so, how does it compare to the traditional on-premises installation of the includes applications, especially Exchange and SharePoint?

I know there are countless variables and that these questions defy easy answers, but I’m trying to get a high-level feel of whether this offering is even worth further investigation.

P.S. – Since this is my first GovLoop blog I’m moderating the comments, so if you post one and it doesn’t show up right away, I must be busy…

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Steve Halliwell

I can’t give you a user pescpective, given that I work for Microsoft. I my former life I ran IT shops, app dev and infrastructure. I can point you towards Coca-Cola, Glaxo Smith Kline and Energizer as folks that are already running the On-Line service and might be able to give you feedback. Key to note that there are 2 versions of the Microsoft On-Line offerings – one is less expensive and has less functionality – called Standard. Dedicated is the full featured offering that allows you to do what you would do with SharePoint integration and code modification while still running it in the cloud.

Several US government organizations are coming on-line as we speak, and press releases are being prepared now. I believe the ease of upgrade from version to version, the lower costs of ownership realized through bulk server and storage purchasing power, and enterprise change management processes that are in place all make it worth the time it will take you to investigate. I have seen the server farms and I can tell you its an incredible display of redundancy and planning and raw computing power.

Jeremy Bingham

Steve –

Thanks for your feedback – I did see mention of the Standard & Dedicated offerings on the MS website but there wasn’t much detail about the different version – for example, on the SharePoint offering there were only a few noticeable differences like offering a SAS 70 self-assessment. If you know where I can find out more detailed info about both offerings, I’d like to see it.

I’d also like to hear more about the U.S. government agencies that are on-line or are about to come on-line w/ either of these services. If any of these agencies are on the smaller side, so much the better, b/c one of the benefits I’m hoping a hosted solution could give my agency is teh ability to ad dnew services without having to increase our IT resources much, if at all. I know that won’t be the case if we try to stand up Exchange & SharePoint in-house.

Jeremy Bingham

Fortunately or unfortunately, my requirement isn’t for a hosted e-mail application, it’s for Outlook. If that wasn’t a driver, Google or Zoho would definitely be worth looking at (though Gmail still has too many outages for my comfort). But they might be useful for other purposes.

April E.

oh ok. Misinterpreted your request regarding the Business Productivity. We used Microsoft service when it was in it’s early stages. Bit too pricey. We use hosted Sharepoint through for our external stuff. Internally we have Sharepoint 2007. also has a Microsoft Exchange option. Anyway..good luck.

Jeremy Bingham

April – does your organization still run hosted and internal instances of SharePoint? If you do, what do you use it for internally for vs. what you use the hosted version for? And do you run Exchange internally, hosted, or not at all?