10 things you should know about Office 365 before signing up



1: It’s 4 products not 3

Many people look at Office 365 and think its 3 products; Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online and approach it as 3 products.  Its better to look at it as 4 with the 4th being the identity process also known as Windows Azure Active Directory.

It is important that you approach these as 4 different products with Azure AD as the first of these.  If you ensure your Azure AD and if you implement it, DirSync and ADFS are perfectly configured, you will have far less issues in Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.  You can also sign up to Azure AD without Office 365 if you want to get that process started now.

2. ADFS and the sts.domain.com

Who said that your ADFS authentication website has to be sts.contoso.com?  You only follow the instructions from Microsoft and TechNet and they show it has to be sts.domain.com in their example.  Why not have something a little more user friendly like login.contoso.com or cloudlogin.contoso.com?  Do you know what sts stands for? Winking smile

3. You data is about to be deleted!

Well its not and the email is confusing.  When you sign up for a 30 day trial you are given 25 E3/A3 licenses but you may want a different plan such as A1, E2 or A4.  At the end of the 30 days you will purchase licenses and if you don’t purchase the 25 trail licenses they will be removed.  The email says your trial data will be deleted.   The data is only the licenses nothing to do with SharePoint or Exchange content.  Just make sure you have purchased licenses and no one is using the 25 trail licenses.


4. Being clever with licenses

Lets say you have 100 staff and one of your requirements is Visio Services in SharePoint Online.  Do some research in your organisation to find out if everyone needs access to Visio?  Having done your research you find that only 10 people need Visio while the others just need standard SharePoint.

When your SharePoint Online is created, you are given all the tools to develop the enterprise features such as Visio Services and they don’t go away if you only go for A2/E2.  The enterprise features will only work for those who are licensed.  If only 10 of the 100  need enterprise features, only buy the licenses you need and assign them to the right people.

5.  Office Pro Plus Licenses

If you are buying A3/E3 licenses because you get Office Pro Plus check the price difference between the yearly cost in O365 to the annual cost of your Microsoft agreement.  You may find that it is cheaper to buy them through your school agreement/Microsoft partner rather than through Office 365.  For those who are education, you are most likely going to find it is cheaper through an EES agreement rather than purchasing E3 licenses in Office 365.

6. Office 365 doesn’t mean SharePoint Online

As pointed out in number 1, Office 365 is 4 products.  If you just want Azure AD, just get Azure AD, you don’t need Office 365.  If you have pressure to move to Office 365 from your CTO, just do Exchange Online, or just Exchange and Lync.  Going with Office 365 doesn’t mean you have to implement all of the service and then pay for them.  Only need Exchange, only buy Exchange Online licenses.

7. Internet Connectivity

You need to ensure you have a robust internet connectivity and if it’s that important, a decent back up as well.  Moving to the cloud mean you are going to use internet service more.  Can your internet cope with additional traffic outbound and inbound?  What if the water engineer outside accidently cuts the fibre internet into your building.  How long can you business cope without Email, Lync and SharePoint?

One of the responses I heard to this was, we’ll send them all home and they can work from there and just use their own internet connection, that’s why they have laptops.  It wasn’t until I pointed out that their ADFS server used the same internet line to authenticate all their users from outside of the network they decided something had to change

8. Upgrades – THING CHANGE!

Having managed a few tenancies through the process of the 2010 to 2013 tenancy upgrade process, Microsoft will do changes and they will let you know when these are through the planned maintenance through the Office 365 Admin portal.  But be careful, Microsoft might change something without letting you know.  Be prepared just in case you need to send out a quick SharePoint Online fix.  If you want to know my experience, give me a call and I’ll happily tell you the stories.

9. Email Notifications from SharePoint

They all come from the same email address.  It doesn’t matter what farm you are on, your location in the world or data centre, it will come from no-reply@sharepointonline.com.  You can’t change it

10. External Contact and accessing content throughout your site

The external contact feature is great to invite individuals to share documents and sites but what if your site has content that is cross referenced to other sub-sites?  You need to make sure that when you are sharing content to an external contact, they also have access to anything else that links from that site (if you want to see it).  If you have heavily customised the look and feel of SharePoint and the external contact doesn’t have access to the company logo stored in the root site collection, it won’t show.

7 thoughts on “10 things you should know about Office 365 before signing up

  1. Thanks for sharing Alex, great points to highlight. No. 3 is a real bug-bear and I wish Microsoft would re-write the email. A small point about licensing. It’s always worth checking the likely timeline for a later upgrade because buying each licence commits it for the duration of the current 12-month renewal period. It’s a bit of a headache trying to upgrade them mid-term. If going Exchange-only first, the saving is probably worth tit. But if just going SharePoint Online first, the difference in subscription fee is small. I tend to recommend going with the Office 365 E1 plan rather than just SharePoint Online. Clients invariably want Office Web Apps and the two separate licences combined are more expensive than O365 E1.

  2. So many “gotchas” this time around. Thanks for sharing! This is like an essential article everyone should be reading. So I tweeted it out to my group. Thanks again!


  3. Point 7 is important, without a solid internet connection Office 365 is redundant. By the way this article would translate well as a 10 point infographic.

  4. Aric

    Can I only choose SharePoint in a mixed environment for some users (and not pay the full cost)? I have an O365 Small Business plan, maxed at 25 users. I would like to add about 50 users that only need SharePoint access; not the full Office package. I know I can add users this way, but there’s no indication of the price difference. Plus, it’s not so simple to try because I have to change tiers to go beyond 25 users. I don’t want to pay an additional $75/mo just for one more user and realize I can’t breakdown the subscription fee that way.

  5. Keith Gardner

    It seems that Microsoft has changed the product licensing configuration between last year and this year, so I’m not sure that O365 SB even exists any more? Now it seems they just have O365 Business, and no mention is made of number of users.

    Anyway I’m looking to move from our current Office 2003 box product installs to Office 365 multi user, but how many “packages” I need to buy is the question. If I have 20 users, and only 5 of them need the online tools and OneDrive, do I need to buy 20 licenses, or do I need only 4 (since each license allows me to install on up to 5 desktops, and only 1 in 5 needs to use online apps and OneDrive)? If not, I don’t get it. Who out there would have 5 computers, 5 tablets and 5 phones? So it seems like it’s geared for my previous assumption? Makes a big difference in price.

    Hope to get to the bottom of this! Thanks.

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