Microsoft offers free help for new Office 365 rollouts

New Office 365 customers who buy at least 150 seats of the online apps suite will get deployment help from Microsoft at no additional charge.

The move is intended to sweeten the deal for prospective buyers by offering assistance with provisioning and configuring the Office 365 components, which include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office 365 Pro Plus and Yammer, Microsoft said Wednesday.

“We will ensure that the Office 365 service is provisioned and ready for use in your organization,” says a blog post announcing the Office 365 FastTrack Onboarding Center services.

The offer is to new buyers of the Office 365 Enterprise plans (E1, E3, E4); paid Education plans (A3, A4); Government plans (G1, G3, G4); and Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2.

It’s also a tacit acknowledgement that software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications aren’t as seamless to deploy as vendors would have customers believe, often requiring tweaks, upgrades, integrations and other changes at the end user and IT infrastructure levels.

“Ensuring that customers realize the value of Office 365 in their organizations quickly while providing a smooth onboarding experience to their users is a top priority for the Office 365 team,” the blog post reads.

The FastTrack Onboarding Center services, available now worldwide, include remote assistance from an Office 365 “onboarding expert” who will assist both customers and partners, as well as automated checks and configuration tools for “current state assessment, identity management, and domain configuration.”

The services will be provided in English Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

For customers that want assistance with additional tasks, such as email and document migration, Microsoft is offering through March 31, 2015 what it calls an “adoption offer” to help with that.

New customers who buy at least 150 seats can choose between two alternatives. The “adoption activities” option provides an unspecified amount of money to a partner to foster adoption of the suite among employees. The other consists of migration services provided by Microsoft for those moving from Exchange Server 2003 and above, IBM’s Lotus Domino 7.0.3 and above, Google’s Gmail, and IMAP-compliant systems.

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