In previous posts, I covered a lot of details related to the benefits of moving to Office 365. Of course, few technical solutions consist of only benefits, and there are a few potential issues that I think might be important to keep in mind. In this post, I’ll cover some of the issues that I have run into or think might be an issue for others.

Note: This post is part of a series on my move from Gmail to Office 365. To see a complete list of related posts, see Summary: Moving to Office 365.

Office 365 Considerations

  • Cost: First and foremost (for many people), Office 365 is not free. You can use the Office 365: Compare Plans page to get more details on the available offerings. The Small Business (P1) plan is most appropriate for my purposes, and after the free trial period, it will cost me $6/month ($72/year). That’s infinitely more than “free”, but to me, it’s worth the cost.
  • Exchange ActiveSync Support on other devices: Outlook 2013 works great for me, but I found that the built-in Android 4.0 Email application leaves a bit to be desired in the “user experience” department. First, the app is buggy – it took me many tries to just add an account. I was unable to change my password without completely removing the account and re-adding it (no easy task on a touchscreen interface). The e-mail widget doesn’t work on my ASUS Transformer TF101, and the folder management UI is almost as painful as Gmail’s web UI. Of course, there are third-party apps (most are relatively expensive for mobile apps) that fill in some of these gaps.
  • Incomplete Migration of application settings: While the majority of commonly-used messaging settings seem to be stored online (and, more importantly, are automatically synchronized between client installations), some are not. For example, I found that some toolbar customizations and Outlook client message settings (I usually change the default reply font and color) do not migrate automatically. It’s not a huge deal, but it would certainly help to have all relevant client settings roam to new computers and devices.
  • Outlook Data File Synchronization: The default settings in Outlook 2013 specify that the application should download and cache 12 months of data on the local client (stored, by default, in the user’s profile folder in an OST file). As long as you have enough bandwidth and storage space, you should be fine with those settings. However, features like Windows Search can cause a significant amount of overhead while it indexes your entire offline data store. It’s not a huge deal, but it became readily apparent when my aging laptop temperature started to exceed the 100-plus degree Texas summer heat while performing the initial synchronization.
  • Outlook 2013 UI: Overall, I like the new Outlook 2013 UI (especially the default setting on in-line replies from the “Reading” pane). There are some things I don’t like, though. As many people have complained, I find that the overly white/washed-out appearance of the new Office 2013 ribbons and toolbars to be a step backward in usability and aesthetics. Perhaps over time, I’ll get use to the new look. Or, better yet, Microsoft will listen to the feedback and offer some customization options (as they did with Visual Studio 2012). It’s not a deal-breaker, but it might affect some users’ willingness to use the Office 2012 Beta.
  • Office Updates: I think most of us who have come to rely on online services have tended to like the idea that new updates and features can be rolled out seamlessly online. In general, being able to use the newest features is a good thing. However, there’s always a chance that an update will make things worse from a usability or functionality perspective. I don’t think it’s an “issue” exactly, but there’s a potential for unwelcome changes to occur. Personally, I’m not worried and will address any problems if/when they arise.
  • Preview-related downtime and issues: I did experience the inability to send messages from my Office 365 account for almost an entire week. More details on that issue can be found in a previous post, Cloud Services: The Importance of Technical Support.

Potential Preview Program Pain

The Office 365 Preview is just that – a pre-release version of the final services that Microsoft plans to release. It comes with limited support offerings, and users should expect at least some problems. I’ll probably be ready to sign up as soon as the service goes live, unless anything unexpected comes up before the general availability of the new service.

One important statement in the Microsoft Office Preview FAQ is that existing data (calendars and e-mail) will not be migrated automatically. It reads:

· The Preview is separate from your current Office 365 service and is for temporary use only.

· When the Preview ends, all data in the Preview account will be deleted, including email and calendar data, web sites, and uploaded documents, so be sure to download any information that you need to keep.

It will be inconvenient if I have to back up my entire Exchange mailbox to a .PST file and then re-import it. However, it wouldn’t take a lot of my time and effort to accomplish (now that everything is consolidated and organized as I want it), though it will consume significant Internet bandwidth. Either way, I’m psychologically prepared for the eventual transition.