Last week, I signed up for Microsoft Office 365 and, even though I’m on a Mac, I thought the online email and team and website services would be a good and solid backup for the life I have heretofore entirely and exclusively run on Google Apps.
I was right and I was wrong to try Office 365. This is the story of how it all played out.
I first signed up for the Office 365 E2 plan — there are way too many plans to choose from — because I wanted to run Office on the web. I had to purchase Office 2011 for Mac from Amazon for around $160.00USD to get the plan to work, and while the 2011 version of Mac Office is 100% better then Mac Office 2008, I could in no way find out how to save my local Office files to my Office 365 setup. I could not find a way to edit those files online. It was a miasmatic mess!
I called MSFT to cancel my E2 subscription. I was offered two months free if I stayed, but I was so hazed out from trying to get Office 2011 to work that I just cancelled everything. The MSFT agent told me I had a 90 day grace period to re-activate my subscription and all I had to do was to login to my account and start my subscription again.
It wasn’t that easy.
The next morning, I decided I really loved having Microsoft Exchange as my backup, online, email client. The new version of Outlook Online synched really well with Mac Office 2011. I didn’t need the $14.00USD a month E2 plan. I could just go with an “Exchange Only” email plan for $4.00USD a month instead.
When I tried to login to my account I canceled the day before, I was unable to login. I created whole new secondary account, but I could not verify my Boles.com and BolesBrands.com domains because they were “already being used,” I guess, by my previously-cancelled E2 plan.
I called Microsoft and, an hour and a half later, I hung up the phone, and I was back in — on my original account. I had my email working on Boles.com again in no time and I super love Outlook online.
It was then I decided I could upgrade to an E1 account, and keep my Exchange Only plan and give it to my wife as an email backup address for her, and I could have a website on Office 365 — good in case all my other websites go heels-up on Pair — and I didn’t need the useless, non-working, Office 2011 for Mac connection, so the E1 plan at $8.00USD a month would work for me.
With my Exchange email and E1, I would be paying $12.00USD a month — two dollars cheaper than the single-license E2 plan I canceled the day before.
The trouble with my E1 plan was that my old website domain — setup using Microsoft Sharepoint — would only load a blank page when people would visit BolesBrands.com.
I guessed there was a problem with my canceled E2 plan and my new E1 plan and that was tying up my BolesBrands.com domain. When I tried to delete the BolesBrands.com domain, I was told by the system that the domain was already in use — even though it wasn’t.
With BolesBrands.com verified, active, but not loading the website pages, I decided to take drastic action and stop using BolesBrands.com for my public website and use BolesBrand.com instead — yes that URL removes the pluralizing “S” at the end of the domain name creating a single identity and aura.
Adding users is a little complicated. You pick a domain for their email address.
Then you you click on the name of the user to associate a license with the user. It’s a little complicated to find and then apply these features, but if you don’t do that, you don’t get any services. I had to remove my “expired” E2 license associations and then add the E1 associations.
Sharepoint is a big Microsoft service that allows you to collaborate online. I have no idea how I’ll use this feature and I don’t like when I click on “Team” in my Office 365 account that I am taken to this Sharepoint site that gives me no link to return to my Office 365 experience.
Creating “forward facing” public websites in Office 365 is a tortuous experience. The templates are from 1982. The design is flagrantly awful and boring. Editing pages is a futile exercise in waiting for writes to the server. The editing interface is, in fact, so slow and so terrible, that I had to logout and login again each time I wanted to make a page change and force a save to the MSFT servers. Forget dynamic websites. Office 365 domains are static and made to “set it and forget it.” I’m glad the pages quickly load for visitors once you have everything edited.
Here’s what BolesBrand.com hosted on Office 365 looks like. Yes, it’s ugly. Yes, it looks ancient and out-of-date. Yes, I’ll keep it as an emergency backup website.
My local version of Outlook for the Mac is wonderful. I can sync with my online account and get a fuller and richer experience locally.
Office 365 offers rock-solid email. I added my Boles.com address — as a Microsoft Exchange account — to my iPhone and iPad and Google Apps Gmail and everything is synching and working just great. Gmail still archives every email.
Outlook Online, even with its 25GB mailbox, is more funnel than permanent repository for me right now. Sharepoint will have to be explored to grow on me and my website will take some time to ponder to find ways to make it more breathable. Lync, when it actually connects, is a pretty neat idea.