CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Office 365 and SharePoint Online
If you’re reading this app, you’ve probably heard phrases such as cloud computing and moving to the cloud being tossed around over the last few years. These terms have often been associated with the strategic planning efforts of medium-to-large IT organizations. However, that’s beginning to change. As cloud computing evolves, it’s becoming more and more accessible to smaller and midsize companies as well as individuals (for example, independent consultants). In fact, one of the major benefits behind cloud computing is that it can help smaller businesses grow larger by giving them access to the same IT resources “the big guys” use, but at a much smaller cost. Now that’s leverage!
Because more and more businesses are moving to the cloud, the way we develop software will continue to evolve as well. In cloud-based environments multiple companies share the same infrastructure; there are considerations and restrictions that don’t apply when developing traditional desktop and web applications. Microsoft refers to this type of infrastructure sharing as multitenancy, and you can think of it as being similar to many tenants renting apartments in a single apartment building. Each apartment has its own kitchen and bathroom, but resources such as elevators and swimming pools are shared. Office 365 is a multitenancy environment, so that topic will play heavily into our customization and development discussions throughout the rest of this app.
WHAT IS THE CLOUD?
The cloud refers to IT services and infrastructure (software, computers, storage devices, and so on) that’s hosted outside of your organization and made available to you over the web. As opposed to the traditional on-premise model of hosting software and services in-house, the cloud-based model offloads the burden of maintaining those resources to someone else. In the case of Office 365, that “someone else” is Microsoft.
This chapter introduces you to Office 365 and SharePoint Online by covering the following topics:
• What Are Office 365 and SharePoint Online?
• What’s Included in Office 365?
• Plan Types in Office 365
• Plan Comparison
• Signing Up for a Trial
• Converting Your Trial to a Paid Subscription
• Purchasing a Paid Subscription
• How to Manage Your Account
• Accessing SharePoint Online
• Managing SharePoint Online
If you’re already familiar with signing up for a plan and managing an account in Office 365, you may want to skip ahead to Chapter 2 and start looking at what’s possible in the realm of customization and development for SharePoint Online. Chapter 3 will then walk you through setting up a development environment so you have a place to develop and test your customizations.
What Are Office 365 and SharePoint Online?
Office 365 is a subscription-based offering from Microsoft that includes cloud-based software for managing and running a business. One of the software products offered is SharePoint Online, which is the focus of this app. SharePoint Online is very similar to SharePoint 2010, but has some key differences due to the multitenant nature of the Office 365 environment.
What’s Included in Office 365?
Depending on which plan you purchase, your Office 365 environment will include one or more of the following products:
• SharePoint Online (for collaboration and websites)
• Exchange Online (for e-mail and calendaring)
• Lync Online (for web conferencing and messaging)
• Microsoft Office desktop software (for desktop productivity)
• Office Web Apps (for online productivity)
At the time of this writing, these products are all based on the Microsoft Office 2010 product suite (though Office 365 Preview was just released as well, which correlates to the Office 2013 product suite). One important thing to remember with Office 365 is that the online version of each of these products is not exactly like its on-premise counterpart. SharePoint Online looks and functions a lot like SharePoint 2010, but they are not the same product. There are some differences in features and functionality, and they’re technically considered to be two different products. The same is true for Exchange Online and Lync Online.
As an example, consider the simple public website you can create in SharePoint Online. SharePoint 2010 has no equivalent, nor does it contain the special Page Designer ribbon that’s included for editing this type of site in SharePoint Online.
Plan Types in Office 365
Customers subscribe to plans in Office 365, and each plan is a little different in terms of the software and features it offers. At a high level, the plans offered can be broken down into three categories:
• Office 365 for professionals and small business (P plans)
• Office 365 for enterprises (E plans)
• Individual product plans
Plans in the first category are often called P plans because the plan names begin with the letter P. Plans in the second category are often called E plans because the plan names begin with the letter E. The last category of plans typically uses names containing the product name and a plan number (e.g., SharePoint Online Plan 1). There are also educational plans, government plans, and kiosk plans (which are mostly specialized versions of the plans we already mentioned).
The edition of SharePoint Online in the P plans is very much like SharePoint Foundation 2010. The E plans, however, use an edition that’s very much like SharePoint Server 2010 (it has publishing, user profiles, and so on). We chose to focus primarily on the E plans in this app because we want to discuss the broadest possible range of customization options for SharePoint Online. We’ve done our best to note throughout the app where significant differences exist between plan types. However, some differences aren’t explicitly called out if they’re well-known. For example, we don’t mention that SharePoint publishing features are not available in the P plans because SharePoint Foundation does not have that capability.
Note Sometimes we use the terms P plans and Office 365 for professionals and small business interchangeably. We do the same for E plans and Office 365 for enterprises. We also occasionally use specific plan names such as P1 or E3 when relevant