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Microsoft Office 365 review

Office heads for the cloud, but does it send productivity sky-high?

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With Exchange 2013, Outlook Web Access (the webmail service) looks exactly the same as Outlook 2013 and even supports offline access to email (on Windows RT as well as Windows browsers). It's also what the Exchange Online admin centre is built on, and you can just mark a user as an administrator. This removes the need for an Exchange mailbox to administer Exchange, so you don't have to waste a mail licence and storage quota on a shared mail admin account.

This has the same clean, well-organised interface as the rest of the new Office 365. Tools are grouped into the right categories and the most useful and important options are on the main page of the admin centre, so you can manage ActiveSync, Outlook Web Access and archiving quickly.

Similarly, important options like creating, editing and deleting users and objects are always visible on the toolbar. More advanced commands are also accessible, but they're on the More menu (indicated by the same three dots using in OneDrive Pro and elsewhere in the interface) where novice administrators won't click them by accident.

As with the previous version, you can also give different administrators limited permissions; if someone only needs to use the compliance or discovery tools, they won't get access to mail flow and user settings.

There's no longer a separate admin portal for managing the anti-spam and malware features (these are still substantially the same, but you manage them through Exchange Online).

Other previously complex tasks, like setting up federation to make free/busy times in user calendars visible or setting up shared mailboxes for call centres, are far simpler and you are guided through important steps (like giving users the right permissions to access the shared mailbox).

Public folders return in Exchange 2013 by popular demand. Like everything else in the new Exchange Online, they're simple to set up with helpful error messages that make clear what you've done wrong and how to fix it.

Malware
Office 365 has malware scanning

There's also a helpful balance between enforcing policy and users getting work done. The data loss prevention tools in the Enterprise version of Exchange Online let you set up rules to stop people emailing personal information like credit card numbers (with a smart check that uses the same algorithm used to issue credit card numbers, rather than just looking for any 16 numbers in a row).

But users can also override most of these policy warnings by filling in an explanation and confirming they know the message will be logged. The information can be encrypted to keep it safe until the manager approves the explanation.

The tips reminding users of the policy only show up in Outlook 2013 and Outlook Web Access. But if you send a message from your smartphone that breaks a policy, the rule can forward the message to your manager or mail you to confirm that you meant to break the policy.