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Evolution of E with Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 E5 – Drumbeat Road Show (London – February 2016)

My team and I had the privilege of attending a Microsoft event aimed at educating its partner community on its new Office 365 (O365) Enterprise E5 Suite. I must admit I went with a bit of excitement at the prospect of some breaking news specifically about how Microsoft are going to enable PBX functionality for their SME and Enterprise users.

The event was fully booked and there were ample opportunities for delegates to network between sessions, which I made the most of to guage what others thought of the announcements. On the whole I wasn’t too disappointed as I gleaned an insight into where Microsoft was going with E5 and as sure as eggs is eggs they are on a Journey which will take them back to the top of the pile, where E5 will be their own cash machine with a licence to print money.

Whilst there was a lot of information provided, the key takeaways for me were:

  • The E3 Plan now has data loss prevention and encryption included.
  • The E4 plan has been discontinued
  • The E5 plan offers:
    • A cloud PBX for Skype for Business users ($8 per user). This will provide: End-user call handling (answer, hold, transfer, sim ring), Setup and use call designation, Team Calling, Use IP Desk Phone, Set and enforce calling policies and Emergency calling.
    • Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery, Secure Attachments and URLs, Access Control. This will provide companies additional assurance against Malware with a neat little Sandbox capability to validate URLs and attachments.
    • PSTN Conferencing ($4 per user) for Skype for Business users. However, there will be additional costs for toll free and international dial out capabilities, but this will not be available until sometime Q1-Q2 of 2016. I’m sure I heard a Ka Ching ! This will include: Tolled Dial-in for Skype Meetings, Meeting Dial-out to PBX/PSTN users, Toll Free Dial-in Conferencing, Default join from PBX/PSTN phones.
    • For an additional charge, PSTN Calling using Skype for Business ($12 domestically and $24 internationally), however this is only currently available in the U.S.A. The good news is that as Microsoft develops agreements with Carriers in other countries this will become available more widely.
    • End user and organisational analytics using Delve and Power BI respectively. Power BI was what I expected from the leader of Forrester Wave Agile Business Intelligence Platforms category (Q3 2015). Quick and easy to setup and full of features to deliver that Wow factor. Delve was a nice little surprise as it is Microsoft’s entry into the Personal Productivity sector which will enable users to firstly identify where and how they spend their time and then take personal responsibility to change their working practices to be more effective. It enables users to opt out for those that worry that big brother is watching. Microsoft also elude to the fact that in the future this product will develop to allow intelligence to be gathered so that when users send emails or meeting invites they will be given hints on who to exclude from circulation lists and meetings due to historical trends – that looks promising especially as user time spent on email is disproportionately high for most users.

Microsoft have thought through their pricing strategy very carefully and ensured that not only are they competitive but also have delivered significant cost savings to their customers. Microsoft’s research suggests that if a customer would have to pay for similar services from their competitors, they would have to pay an order of $90 or more per user per month to get the new services that are offered in E5.

This is approx. 1/3 of what customers would have to pay Microsoft if they chose to purchase from Microsoft at the standalone prices for each component.

Like they have done for E3, Microsoft provide suite discounts for their plans and the suite discount for E5 is about 55% which means, for existing E3 customers, all they would have to pay to step up to E5 would be $15 per user per month. That is almost a 75% savings compared to the competition!

There was additional news that Microsoft will make available sometime soon, a “Cloud connector” to enable partners to deliver hybrid models and then transition to full cloud solutions. However, that is a subject for another article, which my colleague Wajahat Khan will cover in his blog in a couple of weeks.

In summary E5 does deliver significant advantages to those that want to supplement their organisations Office 365 plans with the next generation of integrated voice and data capabilities that provide a full ‘work bench’ feature set from one single provider. This journey by Microsoft is just the beginning and I am sure that E5 will deliver even more in the next few years.

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CoolHarbour are a Microsoft Silver Partner in Unified Communications. If you have any questions regarding this article or just want to explore your Office 365 or Skype for Business options please feel free to contact us on: info@CoolHarbour.com

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