CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Office 365 and SharePoint Online


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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.

 


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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