IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

The 411 on Office 365

Why are third parties offering management tools for Office 365? To simplify both migration and management-related tasks for SMBs. By Carolyn Heinze

While Microsoft already offers management tools for its cloud-based Office 365 suite, companies like MessageOps, MetaVis Technologies, and Quest Software are offering third-party solutions of their own. Why? In short, to simplify both migration and management-related tasks for organizations lacking extensive IT manpower.

“No matter how easy Microsoft makes it, and no matter what the product literature says--and this is true for Google and everybody else as well who provides this product--migrations using the tools that come with the service still require technical know-how beyond the capability of your average worker,” says Scott Cameron, solutions architect and cloud team lead at Valorem Consulting, an IT consultancy based in Kansas City, Mo., and author of the IT blog, Quite Cloudy.

Most SMBs, he adds, don't have the time or resources to invest in the training required to master the Windows PowerShell command line interface through which Office 365 tasks are managed. And, even if they did, most would prefer to focus their resources on improving their core business competencies.

It's for this reason that Boca Raton, Fla.-based MessageOps developed 365 Command, a Web-based administration, reporting, and monitoring tool for Office 365. Chad Mosman, the company's founder and principal consultant, explains that one of the main design goals behind this third-party offering was to provide a graphical interface that eliminates the need to go into PowerShell to perform common tasks such as reporting and mailbox administration.

“Just to get connected to PowerShell requires three or four of these commands,” Mosman points out. “You can copy and paste them, but it's just not very intuitive for somebody whose primary job is not IT.” Basic exercises such as creating shared mailboxes, granting shared mailbox access, or even running reports on mailbox sizes are cumbersome, he says, when conducted via PowerShell.

With 365 Command, these tasks are reduced to a point and a click, via the system's Web-based interface, and Mosman says that it's this simplicity that makes the argument for ROI. “We see it as a time-saver,” he says. And, while he admits that tasks such as creating mailboxes, setting passwords, and running reports can all be achieved through Microsoft's own management tools, he argues that most SMBs don't have the luxury of a help desk to walk them through the process. “In a small business scenario, you're on your own to some degree. This makes it easier for somebody who is not really all that technical to perform these tasks without having to go into PowerShell.”

About the Author

CAROLYN HEINZE is a regular freelance contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.

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