In June, Microsoft launched the highly anticipated cloud-based collaboration and productivity solution, Office 365. This next generation of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) offers significantly enhanced functionality, bringing together the 2010 versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync (formerly Office Communications Server) in an always-up-to-date cloud service.
While Office 365 is currently only available to commercial customers, education institutions will ultimately benefit the most when the current Live@edu offering transitions to the new platform: Office 365 for Education. Expected to be available in the first half of 2012, Office 365 for Education will substantially enhance the current Live@edu offering by adding SharePoint Online and Lync Online as free services for students, in addition to the hosted Exchange Server 2010 email offering that is available now.
Here is a sampling of the many benefits and capabilities that students, faculty and staff can look forward to:
Access email, important documents and other data on almost any device. Students are mobile and depend on a variety of devices to navigate busy schedules, while staying on top of their work. Exchange and SharePoint Online are compatible with PCs, Macs, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
Create, view, edit and share documents using only a browser with Office Web Apps. Students can take collaborative notes using the OneNote Web App, record research data in Excel and then complete assignments on a PC, without using Microsoft Office.
Inspire students to share ideas and collaborate using blogs, wikis, discussion boards and advanced social networking features such as Status Updates and MySites.
View presence status from within Microsoft Outlook, Office SharePoint and other Office applications. Connect in real-time using instant messaging, voice and video.
Facilitate and participate in online classrooms using Lync's built-in conferencing.
Reduce the time and cost of managing servers using advanced reporting and delegation.
Protect users from spam and viruses using the included Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange and by leveraging Exchange e-discovery capabilities.
Provide confidence with a financially-backed 99.9% uptime service level agreement and 24/7 phone support for service administrators.
In addition to the included services, available plans allow schools to add additional services and tailor the solution to meet their needs. For example, the Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop suite can be provided to students at $2 per month; SharePoint and Lync can be provided to faculty and staff at $6 per month.