Summary of Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint Online

On November 17, 2008, Microsoft launched cloud-based (Software as a Service) versions of Exchange and SharePoint -- Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online. In summary:

  • Microsoft is hosting these Online services directly in its own data centers.
  • These Online services are part of a growing family of Online services from Microsoft. Others available now are: Dynamics CRM Online, Office Live Meeting (Web conferencing), and Exchange Hosted Services (spam/malware filtering and email archiving).
  • Instant messaging and presence, through Office Communications Online, will follow in the first half of 2009.
  • Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Online are available now in the United States (see to purchase).
  • Microsoft's Online offerings are aimed at organizations of all sizes.
  • User access to Exchange Online and SharePoint Online is identical to on-premise access via Microsoft Office (e.g., Word, Outlook, etc.) and/or a browser.
  • A crucial feature of Microsoft's new Online offerings is that an on-premise Active Directory (AD) can be employed to authenticate user access to these services, thus eliminating the need for an additional sign-on. This requires the installation of an on-premise Microsoft Services Connector to effect the necessary AD federation.


  • List standalone prices (usually minimum of five users required) are:
    • Exchange Online: $10/user/month.
    • SharePoint Online: $7.25/user/month.
    • Office Communications Online: $2.50/user/month.
    • Office Live Meeting: $4.50/user/month.
    • Malware filtering with Exchanged Hosted Services: $1.75/user/month.
    • Archiving with Exchange Hosted Services: $8.60/user/month.
  • A services bundle, Business Productivity Online Suite, lists at $15/user/month and encompasses Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online, Office Live Meeting, and Exchange Hosted Services filtering.
  • Versions of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online for deskless workers will be available in the first half of 2009, and will cost $2/user/month, or $3/user/month for both.
  • Volume purchases appear to get discounts of around 20%.
  • Comments:

  • Microsoft has put a lot of effort into designing a system that is easy to subscribe to and easy to support. At first sight, the design seems first class.
  • Microsoft is encouraging third-party system integrators to participate in support, either by providing mainstream IT applications support, or by building services on top of Microsoft's cloud-based offerings.
  • A lot of work has gone into allowing the coexistence of hosted Exchange and on-premises Exchange, primarily through AD federation.
  • Microsoft envisages the common development of applications that span on-premises and cloud-based systems. This is an interesting idea that merits further contemplation.

Additional observations will follow over the short term.

... David Ferris and Nick Shelness

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