Office 365: An Introductory Guide
Microsoft Office 365 has a vast array of features to explore. A rich administration interface, streamlined security, and versatile migration options make this one of the most interesting products when it comes to an SaaS public cloud solution.
The cloud represents one of the most interesting topics of today's computing. The concept of practicing a centralized approach for information management that makes the cloud is not that new, and has been around since the beginning of systems interconnectivity. However, there are fundamental differences-present-day systems are being accessed by a much larger scope of clients, and the tools to manage the infrastructures are very different. Scalability, security, and mobility are required factors that have become the basics of technology meeting business requirements.
When it comes to the private cloud, it can certainly solve some problems we are facing, mainly scalability and flexibility in assigning physical resources appropriately. With virtualization being commonly present in most major infrastructures, it is becoming easier to deploy infrastructures and manage them under the same umbrella system. However, such implementations still require IT staff to deal with HA and security, as well as take care of overall health of the implementation. One example of a private cloud solution is the Microsoft System Center suite of products, which offers Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), an App Controller (cloud management tools); System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) for monitoring; Orchestrator for automation; Service Manager for IT management; and Data Protection Manager (DPM), a backup and recovery tool. These tools make a complete framework on which a private cloud can be built.
With a public cloud, managed by a third-party, many issues are solved, with the back-end administration being outsourced. Office 365 can provide benefits in scalability, security, high availability, and information access through a robust back-end platform, and is considered a reliable public cloud solution. Although the back-end is managed by Microsoft with its Azure platform, Office 365 allows a greater level of control of your resources suited to your particular needs.
Whether your organization chooses to deploy a private or public cloud infrastructure, it is certain that systems administration will change, which will require efforts by both IT staff and clients alike to adapt to this new kind of environment.
In this white paper, we will explore how one kind of public cloud system, Office 365, works. We will discover what steps your organization should choose to implement an infrastructure that is completely driven by Office 365, as well as in a scenario when some of your services need to remain within the premises of the organization, while the rest can be hosted outside the organization.
The Office 365 Products Suite
Office 365 is a set of products that works similarly to other already well-known Microsoft technology. It is delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solution, and uses the following products at its core:
- Exchange Server
- SharePoint Server
- Lync Server
The online version of these popular tools is made available through an Office 365 subscription, which also includes access to another popular Office application, the Office 365 ProPlus suite.
Optionally, it is possible to use the online version of the following products as well, which are available by acquiring the appropriate subscription plan:
- Yammer (successor to SharePoint, primary enterprise social utility)
- Project (enterprise project, portfolio management)
- Visio (online diagrams maker)
- Dynamics CRM (customer management)
In a standard on-premises scenario, it is often required to follow relatively complex licensing. There is a multi-layered approach to take into consideration: from the base server to the application and the Client Access License (CAL).
The licensing model in Office 365 has been simplified to the point that there is no need to invest in any of these layers, except for the fee of the Office 365 subscription itself. One license is assigned to one user, and can be granted or revoked at any time.
Office 365 features are unlocked based on the licensing plan that is chosen. Each plan is specifically designed to cater to an organization's needs (e.g., access to Office applications, compliance, enterprise management) and limitations (e.g., the number of users supported for the plan. It is even possible to assign parts or functionalities provided by the licensing plan.
One particularly interesting option is the ability to run the full Office 365 ProPlus suite on up to five computers simultaneously. This comes with all plans except for Business Essentials and E1.