Office 365 vs Open-Xchange – Overview

Office 365 vs RS E-MailJust about a year ago, we were pretty excited as we signed up for Microsoft’s Office 365 service. A year later we have cancelled Microsoft’s service and switched to an Open-Xchange based e-mail service hosted by Rackspace. This post is the first in a series that examines in detail, our experience and thought process in signing up for and then moving off of Office 365.

Our Initial Needs

A year ago, we had a pretty good idea of our key requirements for an e-mail service.

Cloud-Based We definitely needed a cloud-based solution. We were starting our business in our kitchen and knew that even when we moved into regular office space, it would be a long time before we could afford a computer room, server computers, and the IT staff to take care of them
Web E-Mail Client We needed a run-anywhere, browser-based e-mail client. We knew that we would be hiring student interns and that these students would tend to arrive with their own laptop computers.
e-Mail Aliases We wanted to make efficient use of generic addresses like “info@asattepress.com” without paying for separate mail boxes or requiring someone to have to constantly check separate mail boxes.
Microsoft Office Support We also knew that the students would tend to have “academic” copies of Microsoft Office with problematic license restrictions. We needed to find an easy and cost-effective means of providing legal office document processing.

Additional Attractive Features

Microsoft’s Office 365 offering seemed to fit the bill. In addition to the basics listed above, it offered some additional attractive bundled features:

Microsoft Lync Microsoft’s instant messaging solution. I had worked for years at IBM and we had made extensive use of the Lotus Sametime product. With employees spread all over the world, Sametime was extremely useful. Microsoft Lync looked promising.
Microsoft SharePoint Likewise, I had made extensive use of Lotus teamrooms at IBM. SharePoint looked like an attractive feature as well.

A Year Later

So, how did these different aspects of the value proposition work out for us?

  1. Cloud-Based – Good. Office 365 is cloud-based.
  2. Web E-Mail Client – Disappointing. I have been pretty happy with the desktop version of Outlook. As such, I was disappointed to see just how clumsy and awkward the web version was.
  3. e-Mail Aliases – Clumsy. The interface to manage aliases is hard to work with. Exchange also translates the incoming address making it impossible to see who the original e-mail was addressed to.
  4. Microsoft Office Support – Problematic. The online tools were not up to real professional applications. The downloadable versions did not support Mac – even though Microsoft has a Mac version of Office.
  5. Microsoft Lync – Irrelevant. The Lync product did not work very well and even Microsoft is transitioning users to Skype.
  6. Microsoft SharePoint – ┬áIrrelevant. The product was clumsy and hard to use.

The following posts I will discuss these topics in more detail and compare the Office 365 experience with the Open-Xchange experience.

Pricing and Customer Service Office 365 is quite a bit more expensive than the comparable Rackspace service.
Web E-Mail Client Office 365 uses too many popups and also has many frustrating and confusing features. The performance is also sluggish compared with the simpler, faster Open-Xchange client.
Instant Messaging and File Sharing Both Office 365 products were “heavy” implementations.
E-Mail Aliases The Open-Xchange implementation is much better.
Microsoft Office Support The web clients are still toys. The Office 365 download approach is problematic. Open Office is getting closer.

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