Microsoft Office 365 public beta now available

Microsoft's cloud-based Office suite, Office 365, was first announced back in October 2010. Following a limited beta test conducted with a few select businesses, Microsoft has now opened up the beta program to the public. Individuals that are interested in participating may visit the Office 365 webpage.

Office 365 is a subscription service that combines Office Web apps with familiar web-enabled tools, such as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync. The service offers users email and calendaring services, collaboration on Office documents and websites, conferencing and instant messaging with colleagues, and the ability to access these services from almost any device or browser. Microsoft also offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee and data protection services including Microsoft's corporate antivirus solution, ForeFront Client Security.

There are two beta test programs available - one for small businesses of up to 25 employees, and one for mid to large enterprises of any size. The small business program comes with Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and an external website. The midsize to large enterprise offering offers email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, conferencing via voice and video, Web portals, and a subscription-based copy of Office Professional Plus. Upon the end of the beta test, the two monthly subscription services will go for $6 per user for small businesses, and $24 per user for midsize to large enterprises.

In addition to the public beta's launch, Microsoft has also introduced the Office 365 Marketplace. Users may use the Marketplace to personalize Office 365 with over 100 applications and 400 professional services. The content is offered by 16,000 Microsoft cloud partners.

The full press release is available here.

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