While the new Office 365 has been on sale in Australia for home users since January, this week the new business versions officially became available.
A quick refresher: Office 365 is the subscription version of office. You pay a yearly fee, and get all updates and new versions free, as well as extra online storage and other features. The other big advantage is you can install it on more than one computer.
The other big deal is that business versions of Office 365 can include hosted Exchange - or in other words, a Microsoft Exchange server runing your own company-wide email and calendars for your staff, without you actually buying a server for your building.
The standalone version, Office 2013, only comes with a license for one computer, and you don't get automatic free updates.
So what do you pay if you want the small business version of Office 365? Microsoft's comparison of the different versions is here
. Here's a summary of what's available, firstly for small businesses:
Hosted email (Exchange Online): $7 per user per month.
You get a hosted Exchange account, all you get is access to the Office Web Apps for viewing attachments.
Office 365 Small Business: $7.90 per user per month.
Access to Office Web Apps, hosted email, HD video web conferencing, and a public website. Limited to a maximum of 25 users.
Office 365 Small Business Premium (NEW): $13.50 per user per month.
Everything in the Small Business edition, plus the Office Mobile apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and the desktop versions of Word, Excel PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher and Lync (an instant messaging and videoconferencing software). Each user can run the desktop applications on up to five computers running Windows or OS X for the period of the subscription, and there is also provision for temporarily using the software on any compatible computer. Limited to a maximum of 25 users.
The remaining plans are aimed at mid-size to big businesses (or "enterprise" as the IT industry likes to call them), but may be of interest to smaller firms looking for specific features such as SharePoint for collaboration.
Office 365 Enterprise E1: $12.70 per user per month.
This is the equivalent of Office 365 Small Business with the addition of Active Directory integration (simplifies administration if you're using your own servers as well as Office 365) and SharePoint.
Office 365 Midsize Business (NEW): $16.50 per user month
Provides everything in the E1 subscription, plus the desktop Office suite and Office Mobile Apps. Limited to a maximum of 25 users.
Office 365 Enterprise E3: $33.30 per user per month.
Provides everything in the Midsize Business subscription, plus email archiving, eDiscovery (to search across SharePoint and Exchange when you need to be sure you've produced all the documents required in a legal dispute), voicemail with auto-attendant, and business intelligence tools. No limit on the number of users.
Microsoft has pledged to add new features to Office 365 several times a year. One of the things on the agenda is integration between Lync and Skype. Cross-program instant messaging, presence and voice calls are scheduled to arrive in the next few months, while video calls between Lync and Skype clients will be available by the end of 2013. Given the widespread use of Skype, this will be an important development.
In Australia, Office 365 is only available to small and medium businesses through Telstra (big businesses can buy it directly from Microsoft).