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What Are All the Microsoft 365 Services?

Apr 23, 2020Anchor, General

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 come with a dizzying array of services. The honest truth is that most businesses, large and small use an exceptionally small percentage of the services. What are all these services? When should you use them? Are they easy to learn? Do they cost any more? In this article, I’ll explain the main uses for each service and a pointer or two along the way.

E-Mail & Calendaring (Exchange Online)

What is it?
The online services used by Outlook (or other mail clients) to send and receive email, manage calendars, shared resources, enforce email security policies, rules, and more. In most cases, small businesses do not need to learn much about it as you use this service indirectly through the Office or Microsoft 365 console which automatically creates mailboxes and custom domain names for you in Exchange Online.

Small Busines Usefulness
High – but you often don’t use it directly

Complexity
Beyond the basics, very high. Once you get under the hood, it’s a beast.

Discussion
When people think of Microsoft and email, Outlook is what comes to mind, right?. After all, that’s where you go to send, receive, and work with email, contacts, calendars, etc. But Outlook is just the pretty face in this case. The heavy lifting behind the scenes is that sends, receives, and stores email is a backend service called Exchange Online. So when you setup your Microsoft or Office 365 mailbox in Outlook, or login to the web based version, Outlook shows you the email hosted in Exchange Online. When you send or receive mail, schedule a meeting, or lookup an email address , it’s all provided by Exchange Online. If you’re just using basic email features, there is very little you need to know about Exchange Online to get going. Email boxes are created for users automatically when you create a user in the 365 management website and assign an Office 365 license to them (for subscriptions that have Exchange Online). If you need to delegate a calendar (common when a secretary manages an executives calendar), you configure this directly in Outlook, which behind the scenes configures Exchange Online. However, if you need to create a shared mailbox, then the service administrator needs to sign into Exchange Online (by clicking on the Admin icon on the 365 control panel).

Not all Microsoft or Office 365 subscriptions include Exchange Online but most do. You will want to be sure it is listed if you plan to have Microsoft provide email services.

Teams

What is it?
An online service primarily for company team collaboration. Microsoft’s answer to Slack. Includes online meeting capability that used to be Skype for Business.

Usefulness to Small Business
Very High for those who collaborate with groups and meet virtually with people online.

Ease of Use
Easy to get started. Not as intuitive as it could be to interact with some features.

Complexity
Simple to moderate.

Discussion
While email is the most used 365 service, Teams is the most popular service on Office 365 these days. Teams lets you collaborate with people inside and outside your organization. Teams can be created for focused on projects, business units (sales, marketing, support, etc), or for customers outside of our company to use. Teams allows chat, online meetings (Zoom like meetings for up to 250 people), document sharing, calling, calendaring, and other features. You can add tabs to a Team workspace to enable Project, ToDo, Forms, Excel, Word, Adobe Sign, and many other useful services. With the Teams mobile client, you can jump into a voice and video meeting on your phone while away from you desk as well as keep in touch with current activity in real-time.

OneDrive

What is it?
Online document and file storage tightly integrated with Microsoft Office

Usefulness to Small Business
Very High

Complexity
EZPZ

Discussion
Onedrive is a cloud-hosted personal file respiratory. It’s similar to Box or Dropbox and integrates beautifully with Microsoft Office and Windows. A file is saved to OneDrive lives in the cloud so can be accessed from any device with a browser including phones. There is a free installable OneDrive Sync for your computer that will sync files from a local folder to OneDrive. In this way, you can work offline and files will automatically be synced to the cloud. You can share your OneDrive files with anyone you wish by granting them access by name, or by sending them a special URL that will open the file without authentication. You can easily share a file in Outlook from Onedrive. For files that you plan to share regularly with others in your company, consider placing them in Teams.

SharePoint Online

What is it?
SharePoint is hard to describe. Many people have tried and failed. It started as an idea to allow teams to share files way back in the day as a free add-on to Microsoft web server services and evolved into a billion-dollar business. Prior to Microsoft Teams, SharePoint was touted as the main collaboration tool for business. It was pretty good at that and has more capability than you can imagine. I mean really. You can’t imagine it. It’s has 1000’s of features. The key thing to remember about SharePoint is that it intended to provide services that are internal to your business. Websites, document libraries, workflow, shared calendars, and far more. Most small businesses won’t use it directly these days as many of the features that were popular for SharePoint are now provided by Teams.

Usefulness to Small Business
Most small businesses won’t directly use SharePoint Online

Ease of Use
Challenging

Complexity
Very High

Discussion
SharePoint Online these days is useful for larger businesses that need employees to discover what’s going in the business. That may sound odd, but what if your has 12 buildings, or 20 floors, or 10 regional offices – you can’t just walk over easily to find out what need you need to know? How do the people in distributed locations find out what’s going on with other parts of the business? Where does HR post the Employee Handbook? How can engineering post-release schedules so everyone can find them? SharePoint is a good tool for this problem as each department can have it’s own internal facing SharePoint website. Want to find out about company holidays? Browse to the SharePoint HR site and find out!

For small businesses, Teams provides the collaboration services you need, and does it better. And that is going to save you a LOT Of time. Using SharePoint can be straightforward, but it’s famous for being challenging to administer.

SharePoint is listed in this “Indirectly” section as it used behind the scenes with Teams, Forms, and others services in 365.

Outlook-Word-PowerPoint-Excel Online

What is it?
Outlook, Onenote, Excel, PowerPoint and Word Online are web-based versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Google Docs conceptually. They used to be called “Office Web Apps” and I wrote many of the original service descriptions for them for Microsoft back in the day. Now, they are just called “Excel” or “Excel Online”.

Usefulness to Small Business
High

Ease of Use
EZPZ with increasing complexity based on how complex your documents are

Complexity
Very low. Nothing really to manage from an administrative point of view.

Discussion
You don’t need any special knowledge to use these apps and they work directly in your browser. Microsoft Office is not required. These applications have evolved over the years and I have to say while they are easy to use, behind the scenes they are some of the most complex applications ever written for public use as they do things one would not have thought possible in a browser. The ability to do co-authoring (multiple users editing the same document at the same time) is no small accomplishment. Over the years, Microsoft has closed the parity gap between the online apps (formerly called “Office Web Apps) and desktop applications. You can create fine looking Word documents and slide decks just using the online apps. In addition, many people could use the online Outlook for email as it works great and has all the features needed for most users. For basic word processing, slide decks, and Excel spreadsheets, the online versions are excellent. If you want to work offline (without an internet connection), you will need the PC based versions of Office.


WIP – I stopped here cause I realized this needs to be a bigger project. Each services needs to have it’s own page or post at a minimum that I can use for resources, references, etc.

Forms

Tasks

ToDo

WhiteBoard

Planner

Stream

Delve

1 Comment

  1. As a heavy excel user, I think that the ability to do co-authoring for Microsoft Office tools such as the Microsoft Excel one is very helpful in the Office 365. Sometimes we use Google Sheets as an alternative but it is often not enough as most people do not have the habit of using it. They have the habit of using excel in their everyday job instead and thus, the ability to do what spreadsheet can do in excel of Office 365 is very helpful.

    Reply

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