Office 365: Small Business Server 2011 Essentials Integration:
Final thoughts, and a wrench in the plan for integration
Integrating Office 365 and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials user accounts is an interesting idea and one that allows Microsoft’s latest SMB entry to compete on a more even footing with the traditional SBS offering. That said, I’m not sure what the potential audience size is here. While Office 365 is doing quite well, SBSE–like WHS 2011–seems mired in disinterest, with very few server maker offerings (SBSE is typically sold with new hardware) and little in the way of buzz.
That’s too bad, but then both of these products also suffer from the same basic problem: Configuring them is far too complicated for the intended small business audience. I wrote about the difficulty of just configuring Office 365 for a custom domain for email previously, but the truth is, I glossed over how difficult the similar custom domain configuration for SBSE remote access can be in my note above. Asking a typical SMB worker to undergo either of these tasks could be frustrating and ultimately futile.
My advice here is simple: Both Office 365 and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials offer excellent functionality for small businesses, and integrating them in a “better together” fashion makes even more sense, but only assuming that you can get someone else to do it. This is an excellent opportunity for Microsoft’s partner ecosystem to step in and fill the gap. It’s a role these companies already play. I’m guessing most small businesses just don’t know about that option.
Here’s why SMB partners are not stepping up to the plate.
1. The issue of who controls the client. Office 365 does not allow the Partner to be in control of the Office 365 billing arrangement. Clients sign up with Microsoft, Microsoft bills the client, Microsoft pays the partner a low partner fee. The partner channel right now is seeing Microsoft as a competitor, not as a partner. They see Microsoft as wanting to steal the clients or move them up the food chain to a Gold or Silver partner.
2. The issue of the size of the client. SBS Essentials max’s out at 25 years. You yourself ragged on Microsoft regarding this upper limit for which there is no solid migration path. Most SMB partners thusly see Essentials as for really small clients, under 10. And then in the MSP channel they are not sure that an under 10 user client is worth their time and values a MSP.
The partner ecosystem knows about Office 365. The partner ecosystem is not too thrilled about Office 365.
What SBS Essentials needs is OTHER hosted email vendors to plug into it. Other vendors that are seen as Partner channel friendly. So far there’s only been ONE vendor (www.exchangedefender.com ) that has built a plug in (as far as I’m aware). Intermedia doesn’t. Others don’t.
SBS Essentials needs more of an ecosystem is the real problem.
For another write up on the Office 365 plug in — check out http://titlerequired.com/2011/11/30/sbs-2011-essentials-microsoft-office-365-integration/