First, I’d like to start by apologizing for not posting to this blog recently. My wife and I had twin girls about 6 weeks ago and I have been out of the office thanks to Microsoft’s VERY generous Infant Care Leave (ICL) policy that allowed me to stay home and help the family get settled in. I’ve also been trying to focus this blog on unique content with a goal of posting at least 2 times per month. I have recently been investing more time in using my Twitter account to share quick updates, links to resources and news.

Now to the matter at hand …

Earlier this week I spent some time setting up a brand new Office 365 tenant from scratch. I wanted to experience the process first-hand and see what my customers go through. To do this, I created a free 30-day trial account which not only includes SharePoint Online, but also Office 2010 Professional Plus, the Office Web Applications, Exchange Online and Lync Online.

As someone who has setup new SharePoint environments, I was extremely impressed with how quickly my new SharePoint 2010 Online tenant was made available on Office 365. It literally took less than 15 minutes for the environment to be self provisioned and available for me to use. I didn’t have to worry about setting up Windows Servers then the SQL Server then installing and configuring SharePoint 2010. I didn’t have to worry about capacity planning or setting up backups and planning for disaster recovery. I didn’t have to set up a DMZ or VPN connection to make the site securely available outside of my firewall.

Once the setup wizard completes, you get a very clear, concise, action oriented page to help you get started and even build your own pilot or deployment plan. You can also add and invite up to 25 users to participate in the environment during the trial period.

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From there I was able to import some users; create my new SharePoint site collection; and setup some demo sites provided to Microsoft employees by the SharePoint team out in Redmond. These sites definitely don’t look like the vanilla SharePoint team sites and also show the power of being able to customize the look of your online My Sites:

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I even have SharePoint Enterprise features like Access Services available to me:

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So, while SharePoint Online may not currently have full feature parity with SharePoint on premise, I hope you can see that it is significantly enhanced over the prior version of the Business Productivity Online Services. If you are currently starting a new SharePoint 2010 project, I would encourage you to check out Office 365 and see if it meets your needs.