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Office 2013: Everything IT needs to know

Microsoft takes leap into the cloud with Office 2013/Office 365

By Mike Heck, Network World
August 20, 2012 06:06 AM ET

Network World - With Office 2013, Microsoft sets the bar high. The reworked suite of applications runs on a range of devices, including new Windows tablets; it has a new look, which is fast and fluid, yet has familiar commands; it responds to touch and stylus, as well as keyboard and mouse; and everything's cloud-connected.

The customer preview we tested is available in four plans through Microsoft's cloud service, Office 365. We selected Office 365 Enterprise Preview since it meets the needs of midsize and large organizations. This subscription includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Access, OneNote, Publisher, InfoPath and Lync clients. Additionally, enterprises have access to Exchange Online (including new archiving and legal hold capabilities), SharePoint Online and Lync Online to conduct meetings.

In the Preview, administrators can create 25 user accounts, with each allowed five installations of the applications on different systems. Microsoft hasn't announced pricing or scalability for its new Office offering. The current Office 365, which supports more than 50,000 users, costs from $8 to $22 per user per month. The top-tier enterprise plans include a subscription to Office Professional Plus 2010 for up to five devices per user.

Further, we tested the traditional Office Professional Plus 2013 client software suite that can be installed on a single machine. Also, we installed the 2013 versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync servers on virtual machines running Windows Server 2008 R2. Our client hardware was a mix of Lenovo and Dell desktop and laptops loaded with Windows 7 Enterprise and a Lenovo X220 tablet with the Windows 8 Release Preview.

IN PICTURES: 10 things we love about Microsoft Office 2013

Click and go

The new Office 365 service has the same modern user interface as Windows 8, providing a clean, uncluttered admin console. However, the software is clearly unfinished, as we found inconsistencies in the look and operation between different areas, such as the main console and Exchange Online. Still, much as we found in our earlier look at Office 365, it's a snap to add new users, assign software licenses and monitor the health of various services.

Microsoft uses "Click-to-Run," its streaming and virtualization technology, to install Office products. In Office 2010, this was limited to individual consumers only, but with Office 2013, Click-to-Run supports large enterprise deployments through the Office 365 hosted service.

We see a number of advantages to this approach. First, there's the user experience, where workers can begin using applications almost immediately. We started creating a Word document within a minute of starting the download (connected to a Wi-Fi network) and the whole Office suite finished installing in five minutes.

Second, since Click-to-Run virtualization runs Office products in a self-contained environment, you can operate Office 2013 products along with Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 versions. For IT groups, perhaps the biggest benefit of Click-to-Run is that once Office 2013 is downloaded and installed from Microsoft it's kept up-to-date automatically -- no more patches and service packs to deal with.

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