First Look: Office 365 Beta Shows Promise but Lacks Polish

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Lync also allowed us to launch IM, voice, and video chat sessions with our contacts, as well as share our screens for presentation. It's a powerful addition to the suite and an impressive unified communications solution -- although it may be a little ahead of the curve for some small businesses.

In all, Office 365 brings a lot of technology to the table, and Microsoft's promise to eliminate some of the drudgework of IT administration is compelling. We just hope that as it moves beyond this early beta period, Microsoft manages to smooth out some of the navigation issues and gives the overall suite a more consistent user experience. With an offering this complex, however, that may be a tall order.

The administration screens for Exchange Online are easy to digest, and they give admins more control (including the ability to create mail rules, above) than Microsoft's previous Exchange Online offering. Administering SharePoint Online (below) is more daunting. We'd like to see more robust templates to get small businesses up and running, and perhaps some wizards to create new teams, file directories, and workspaces.

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