Office 365 at a Glance

This is my roundup of Microsoft Office 365 at a glance.  I’ve included a brief summary of the key services and features direct from the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions, as well as a massive feature list of the Office 365 Services at the end of this post.

At the start of every year, I do an extreme roundup of the Microsoft platform.  It helps me see the forest for the trees, understand the big bets, and make sense of the overall Microsoft platform.  It also helps me anticipate growth, jobs, declines, etc.  As part of the process, I try to share what I learn because I imagine a lot of people benefit from the ability to see the Microsoft platform at a glance.

With that in mind, let’s begin …

The main things you need to know to figure out Office 365 are:

  • Office 365 refers to the online services:  Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, etc. 
  • Don’t confuse Office 365 with the on-premises versions: Lync Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint Server 2013, etc.  (Once you recognize this naming convention, then it’s a lot easier to parse what you find on, MSDN, and TechNet.)
  • The key way to figure out what’s in Office 365 is to read the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions.
  • Don’t confuse the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions with the older Business Productivity Online Services Service Descriptions. (I fell for this.  I was reading a Service Description for Exchange Online wondering why it seemed dated – it was.)
  • You can find feature comparisons between the on-premises versions and the online versions within the Microsoft Office 365 Service Description documents.  For example, you can see Lync Server vs. Lync Online, Exchange Server vs. Exchange Online, SharePoint Server vs. SharePoint Online.

Office 365 Service Descriptions

The Office 365 Service Descriptions are the important documents for understanding what the Office 365 services actually are:

  • Microsoft Exchange Online Archiving Service Description
  • Microsoft Exchange Online Enterprise Service Description
  • Microsoft Lync Online for Enterprises Service Description
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus Service Description
  • Microsoft Office Web Apps Service Description
  • Microsoft SharePoint Online for Enterprises Service Description
  • Office 365 Identity Service Description
  • Office 365 Mobility Solutions Service Description
  • Office 365 Security and Service Continuity Service Description
  • Office 365 Support for Apple Mac and iOS Devices
  • Office 365 Support Service Description

About Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of its most trusted communications and collaboration products with the latest version desktop suite. Office 365 is designed to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes—from sole proprietors and small, mid-sized, and large businesses to government agencies to educational institutions—helping you save time, money, and free up valuable resources.
Key Office 365 benefits include:

  • Access to email, documents, contacts, and calendars on almost any smartphone or tablet.
  • Simple and secure collaboration with colleagues and business partners.
  • Seamless functioning with Microsoft Office and other programs.
  • Comprehensive solutions including desktop productivity applications, portals, extranets, instant messaging (IM), voice and video conferencing, web conferencing, email and voice mail.
  • Pay-as-you-go pricing options with a financially backed 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.
  • Office 365 includes the Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online services.

Common Features Across Microsoft Office 365

Cloud services offered by Microsoft Office 365 for enterprises are designed to help meet the need for robust security, 24/7 reliability, and user productivity.
Each service is designed for reliability, availability, and performance with a financially backed service level agreement (SLA) for a guaranteed 99.9-percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft deploys patches, security updates, and back-end upgrades, helping to eliminate the time and effort organizations spend managing their servers.
Subscribers to Office Professional Plus benefit from a set of features that are common to all of the Microsoft business-class cloud services:

  • Secure access: Each offering from Microsoft Office 365 is accessed through 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. Anyone who intercepts a communication sees only encrypted text.
    Intrusion monitoring: Microsoft continuously monitors the Office 365 systems for any unusual or suspicious activity. If Microsoft detects such activity, it investigates and responds appropriately. In the unlikely event that a significant incident occurs, the customer is notified.
  • Security audits: Microsoft regularly assesses the Office 365 infrastructure to ensure that the latest antivirus signatures and required security updates are installed, and that high-level configuration settings are in compliance with Microsoft security policies. For details, refer to the Security and Service Continuity for Enterprises Service Description.
  • High availability: Microsoft Office 365 services have a 99.9-percent scheduled uptime. If a customer’s service is affected, Office 365 offers financial remedies subject to the terms and conditions of the SLA. For details, refer to the Service Level Agreement for Microsoft Online Services.
  • Service continuity: Redundant network architecture is hosted at geographically dispersed Microsoft data centers to handle unscheduled service outages. Data centers act as backups for each other: If one fails, the affected customers are transferred to another data center with limited interruption of service.
  • Microsoft Online Services Portal: This easy-to-use website is the center for activities related to Microsoft Office 365. The portal provides services based on each organization’s specific needs. Prospective subscribers can use the portal to sign up for a free trial. End users accessing the portal can find online help, open Microsoft SharePoint site collections, and launch Microsoft Outlook® Web App. Administrators can manage users, administer services, download tools, and learn about service administration from online help.
  • Directory Synchronization tool: For subscribers with Active Directory® directory services deployed on-premises, this tool helps keep the on-premises Active Directory and the Microsoft Office 365 directory synchronized.
  • Remote administration: With Microsoft Windows PowerShell™, administrators can perform many tasks using a script or automated process. For example, tasks such as creating users, resetting passwords, assigning licenses, and obtaining service-use data can be fully automated.

Types of Identity in Office 365

Office 365 offers two types of identities:

  1. Microsoft Online Services cloud IDs (Cloud Identity): Users receive cloud credentials—separate from other desktop or corporate credentials—for signing into Office 365 services. The cloud ID password policy is stored in the cloud with the Office 365 service.
  2. Federated IDs (Federated Identity): In companies with on-premises Active Directory®, users can sign into Office 365 services using their Active Directory credentials. The corporate Active Directory authenticates the users, and stores and controls the password policy.

The type of identity affects the user experience, administrative requirements, deployment considerations, and capabilities using Office 365.

For more information about Office 365 Identity, please refer to the Office 365 Identity Service Description.

Microsoft Exchange Online

Microsoft Exchange Online is a hosted messaging solution that delivers the capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server as a cloud-based service. It gives users rich and familiar access to email, calendar, contacts, and tasks across PCs, the web, and mobile devices. With Exchange Online, organizations can take advantage of sophisticated messaging capabilities without the operational burden of on-premises server software.
Exchange Online supports the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. Exchange ActiveSync provides synchronization of mailbox data between mobile devices and Exchange Online, so users can access their email, calendar, contacts, and tasks on the go.
For more information about Exchange Online, please refer to the Microsoft Exchange Online Service Description.

Microsoft Lync Online

Microsoft Lync Online is a next-generation cloud communications service that connects people in new ways, anytime, from virtually anywhere. Lync Online provides intuitive communications capabilities across presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling and a rich online meeting experience including PC-audio, video and web conferencing. Transform your interactions with colleagues, customers and partners from today’s hit-and-miss communication to a more collaborative, engaging, and effective experience.

For more information about Lync Online, please refer to the Microsoft Lync Online Service Description.

Microsoft SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online gives you a central place to share documents and information with colleagues and customers. Designed to work with familiar Office applications, it’s easy to save documents directly to SharePoint and work together on proposals and projects in real-time because you have access to the documents and information you need from virtually anywhere.
SharePoint Online helps businesses of all sizes share team documents and track project milestones. You can manage important documents online so the latest versions are always at hand. You can also provide teams with access to critical information and documents when and where they need them, while controlling who can access, read, and share them.
SharePoint Online sites can render on many devices (including Web-enabled mobile phones) using a simplified text-only format. Like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online includes a standardized web-based administrative console that enables your IT administrator to easily manage and set up services for users.
For more information about SharePoint Online, please refer to the Microsoft SharePoint Online Service Description.

Office Professional Plus

The capabilities of Office Professional Plus can be summarized as:  Use Office Anywhere, Work Together, and Bring Ideas to Life.
With Office Professional Plus, users get the latest version of the Microsoft Office applications, seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services, so they can access their documents, email, and calendars from virtually any device. Office Professional Plus includes the new Office Web Apps—online companions to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote®—which let users review and make minor edits to documents directly from a browser.
The flexible pay-as-you-go, per-user licensing of Office Professional Plus is available as part of Office 365 and provides companies with purchasing flexibility; in addition, robust management and deployment tools give companies the IT control to adapt to evolving business needs.

For more information about Office Professional Plus, please refer to the Microsoft Office Professional Plus Service Description.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Microsoft® Office Web Apps is the online companion to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote® applications that helps users access documents from almost anywhere. Users can view, share, and work on documents online with other users across personal computers, mobile devices, and the web.
Office Web Apps is available to users through Microsoft SharePoint® Online, which is part of Microsoft Office 365. Office Web Apps is also available as a part of Microsoft Windows Live™ and also to business customers through Microsoft Office 2010 volume licensing, Office 365, and document management solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 products.
This document focuses on using Office Web Apps as a part of SharePoint Online.

For more information about Microsoft Office Web Apps, please refer to the Microsoft Office Web Apps Service Description.

Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans

Friendly Name


Size Max


Hosted Email

Exchange Online


Complete integration with Outlook* and web access to email, calendars, and contacts
Cloud-based email using your own domain name
Shared calendars
Configurable anti-spam filtering
Active Directory synchronization
25GB user mailboxes and ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support

Small Business

Plan P1


Cloud-based email using your own domain name
Shared calendars
Instant messaging, PC-to-PC calling, and video conferencing
Web-based viewing and editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files
Team site for sharing files
Public website
Anti-malware and anti-spam filtering
Microsoft community support


Plan E1


Everything in Small Business, P1*, plus:
Active Directory synchronization
Configurable anti-spam filtering
SharePoint intranet supporting up to 300 site collections
Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support
* Please note: with E


Plan E3


Everything in E1, plus:
Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop version subscription (for up to 5 devices per user)
Email archiving and unlimited email storage
Hosted voicemail support
Connection to line-of-business applications
Dashboards with Excel Services


For more information on the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans, see the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans page and the Office 365 Plan Advisor Tool.

Features at a Glance for Microsoft Office 365

This is a roundup of Office 365 services at a glance, organized by product.  It’s the balcony view.  By scanning the list, you can get a quick sense of the services.  Then read the actual Office 365 Service Descriptions to find out more.




Office 365

Secure access
Intrusion monitoring
Security audits
High availability
Service continuity
Microsoft Online Services Portal
Directory Synchronization tool
Remote administration

Exchange Online

Service Features
Mailbox size (1 GB for Exchange Online Kiosk user, 25 GB for Exchange Online (Plan 1) user, unlimited for Exchange Online (Plan 2) user)
Message size limits (max attachment size - 25 MB)
Recipient limits (1,500 recipients/day)
Message rate limits (30 messages/minute)
Deleted item recovery (14 Days)
Deleted mailbox recovery (30 Days)

Client Access
Outlook 2010
Outlook 2007
Outlook 2003 (POP or IMAP only)
Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTPS)
Outlook Cached Mode
Outlook Online Mode
Autodiscover (for Outlook and mobile)
Outlook Web App (Internet Explorer 7+, Safari+, Firefox, Chrome)
Outlook Web App light experience (Almost any browser)
Outlook Web App: Vanity URL (Customer can set up a redirect)
Outlook Web App: session time-out (Default: 6 hours, Configurable up to 24 hours)
WebReady document viewing
Instant messaging and presence connected to web email client
Macintosh support (Outlook for Mac 2011, Entourage 2008 Web Services edition)

Windows Phone 7 devices
Windows Mobile devices (Windows Mobile 6.0+)
Other Exchange ActiveSync devices (such as iPhone)
Remote device wipe
Customize Exchange ActiveSync security policies and settings, including PIN/password lock
Disable Exchange ActiveSync access
Mobile device allow/block/quarantine
Over-the-air-update for Outlook Mobile
Mobile SMS sync (through Exchange ActiveSync)
SMS (text messaging) notifications
Blackberery (via Blackberry Enterprise Server)
Blackberry (via Blackberry Internet Service)

"Send on behalf of" and "send as"
Shared mailboxes
Server-side email forwarding
Inbox rules
Conversation view and actions (such as ignore conversation)
MailTips and MailTips customization
Connected accounts (aggregate mail from multiple external email accounts)

Personal contacts
Personal distribution groups
Shared distribution groups (in Global Address List)
Restricted distribution groups
Dynamic distribution groups
Moderated distribution groups
Moderated distribution groups
Self-service distribution groups
Global Address List
Hide users from Global Address List
Offline Address Book
External contacts (in Global Address List)

Out-of-office auto-replies
Cross-premises calendar free/busy (mix of on-premises/cloud users)
Federated calendar sharing
Publish or subscribe to calendar through iCal
Side-by-side calendar view in web client
Resource mailboxes (for example, for conference rooms or equipment)
Outlook 201 Room Finder

Unified Messaging, FAX
Interoperability with on-premises voicemail systems
Exchange Unified Messaging (hosted voicemail)

Anti-spam (AS) (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange)
Antivirus (AV) (Forefront Protection for Exchange)
Safe and blocked senders (configurable at the organization level)
Opportunistic TLS for inbound/outbound email
Forced TLS for inbound/outbound email
S/MIME (Yes, with limitations, No Outlook Web App support)

Transport rules
Personal archive
Retention policies
Journal messages to external or on-premises archive
Multi-mailbox search (eDiscovery)
Legal hold
Rolling legal hold

Administration through a Web-based interface (Exchange Control Panel)
Forefront Online Protection for Exchange Administration Center access
Administration through command line shell (PowerShell)
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
Message Tracking
Usage Reporting (Some data can be extracted using PowerShell)

Application Access/Customization
Application connectivity through web services
SMTP relay
Outlook Web App Web Parts
Outlook add-ins and Outlook MAPI

Global Address List synchronization from on-premises directory (Active Directory) (One-way through the Directory Synchronization tool)

Lync Online

IM/presence and Lync-to-Lync calls
1-to-1 and multiparty IM/presence
Address book search
Dl expansion (DLX)
File transfer
Lync-to-Lync audio/video calls
Lync-to-Lync high definition video
Presence and click-to-Lync from Office Apps
Interactive contacts card in Office 2010

Lync external connectivity (federation and Public IM connectivity)
IM/presence/audio/video federation with other OSC/Lync Server/Lync Online organizations
IM/presence/audio/video with Windows Live Messenger

Meetings (audio/video/web conferencing)
Meeting attendee capacity (250)
Desktop sharing
Application sharing
White boarding and annotations
PowerPoint upload for online presentations
Ad-hoc multiparty PC-based audio-video
Unauthenticated attendee in Lync Web App
Lync attendee client
Scheduled conferences (using Outlook plug-in)
Outlook delegation for scheduling meetings
Support for RoundTable device
Interoperability with certified partners for dial-in audio conferencing (ACP)
Phone-dial-out from scheduled meetings via third-party dial-in conferencing service
Client-side recording and playback
Backstage/Content Preview for presenters
Mute all attendees
Mute individual attendees
Unmute all attendees
Unmute individual attendees
In-meeting attendee permission controls

Voice and telephony
Lync-to-phone (calls with landlines and mobile phones)
Call hold/retrieve
Dial-out from ad-hoc Lync meetings
Advanced call controls (transfer, forward, simul-ring)
Access to Exchange Online voicemail
Team call
Delegation (boss-admin) for Voice

Client support
Lync 2010
Lync Web App for participating in scheduled meetings
Lync 2010 Attendee client (joniing meeting)
Lync 2010 Mobile client
IM and media encryuption
IM filtering

Exchange/SharePoint interoperability
Presence interoperability with Exchange and SharePoint on-premises
Presence interoperability with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online

Third-party API support
Client-side APIs

SharePoint Online

Ask Me About
Colleague Suggestions
Colleagues Network
Enterprise Wikis
Keyword Suggestions
My Site My Content
My Site My Newsfeed
My Site My Profile
Notes Board
Organization Browser
Photos and Presence
Recent Activities
Status Updates
Tag Clouds
Tag Profiles
Tags and Notes Tool
Client Object Model (OM)
Event Receivers
Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for SharePoint
Solution Packages
REST and ATOM Data Feeds
Ribbon and Dialog Framework
Silverlight Web Part
Worklow Models
Access Services
Browse-Based Customizations
Business Data Connectivity Service
External Data Column
Business Data Web Parts
External Lists
SharePoint Designer 2010
Forms: Out-of-Box workflows and customization through SharePoint Designer 2010
InfoPath Forms Services
Sandboxed Solutions
Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developer Tools
Windows 7 Support
Workflow Support
Workflow Templates
SharePoint Service Architecture

In-Place Legal Holds
Document Sets
Metadata-driven Navigation
Multi-Stage Disposition
Rich Media Management
Shared Content Types
Support for Accessibility Standards
Content Organizer
Unique Document IDs
Managed Metadata Service

Excel Services
Visio Services
Calculated KPIs

Best Bets
Extensible Search Scale
Duplicate Detection
Metadata-Driven Refinement
Mobile Search Experience
People and Expertise Search
Phonetics and Nickname Search
Recently Authored Content
Search Scopes
Single Site Collection Search
Site Search
Click-Through Relevancy
View in Browser
Basic Sorting

SharePoint Lists
Web Parts
Improved Governance
Large List Scalability and Management
Multi-Lingual User Interface (MUI)
Permissions Management
Quota Templates
Secure Store Service
Connections to Microsoft Office Clients
Public Website (One per tenant)
Audience Targeting
RSS Feeds
Cross-Browser Support
External sharing
SharePoint Ribbon
Mobile Connectivity
Office Web Apps integration
SharePoint Workspace 2010
Out-of-the-Box Web Parts
Configuration Wizards

Office Professional Plus

Microsoft Access
Microsoft Excel
Microsoft InfoPath
Microsoft Lync
Microsoft OneNote
Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft Publisher
Microsoft SharePoint Workspace
Microsoft Word

Office Web Apps

Word Web App
Open in Word
Edit in Web App
View in Web App
Undo and Redo
Font Formatting
Paragraph Formatting
Bullets and Numbering
Proofing Tools

Excel Web App
Refresh Data
Open in Excel
Edit in Web App
Sort and Filter Data
Save or Download a Copy
Undo and Redo
Formula Bar
Font and Cell Formatting
Number Formatting
Edit Worksheet Structure

PowerPoint Web App
View and Copy Slide Notes
Run Slide Show
Broadcast Slide Show
Outline View
Open in PowerPoint
Edit in Web App
View and Edit Slide Notes
View in Web App
Undo and Redo
Create and Manage Slides
Font Formatting
Alignment, Bullets, and Numbering

OneNote Web App
Show Authors
View Previous Page Versions
Open in OneNote
Edit in Web App
View in Web App
Co-authoring for Shared Notebooks
Undo and Redo
Font Formatting
Paragraph Formatting
Bullets and Numbering
Proofing Tools
Create and Manage Pages and Sections
View and Restore Page Versions

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Comments (4)

  1. Imran Anwar says:

    Great consolidated summary, JD.

    Happy New Year.


  2. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Imran — Thank you — it took way, way longer than I expected, but it was worth it in the end.

    Happy New Year to you and yours!


  3. Alexander Belotserkovsky says:

    Hi, JD.

    Can i translate this post into Russian?

  4. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Alexander — Yes, please do — just attribute back.

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