June 27, 2012, 12:14 PM — Microsoft will launch on Wednesday a version of its Office 365 cloud collaboration and communication suite that is specifically aimed at K-12 schools and universities.
Office 365 for Education replaces Live@edu, which will remain available for 18 more months to give its customers -- about 10,000 educational institutions with about 22 million students in about 130 countries -- a window for planning and carrying out the migration.
It remains to be seen how straightforward or complicated Live@edu customers will find the transition to Office 365 for Education.
Migrations to the business editions of Office 365, launched in mid-2011, have triggered complaints from customers of other Microsoft cloud suites Office 365 has replaced, including Office Live Small Business (OLSB) and Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
Although Office 365 is a cloud-based suite, it can require upgrades to customers' PC and server software, as well as Internet domain and website transfers, depending on the case.
Microsoft already has information online about the migration process from Live@edu to Office 365 for Education.
The first thing to keep in mind is that while Live@edu and Office 365 for Education are conceptually designed to serve the same type of customer, they have several different components.
Live@edu, which is free, includes Outlook Live for email, Office Web Apps, Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging and Windows Live SkyDrive for 25 GB of online data storage.
Office 365 for Education comes in a variety of packages. The free, standard one, called A2, includes Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and Office Web Apps.
The Office 365 Exchange Online component is basically the same as Live@edu's Outlook Live, so transferring from one to the other should be fairly straightforward.
For that reason, it seems like the most automated migration option would be for Live@edu customers to move simply to what Microsoft calls Exchange Online Plan 1, an option limited to e-mail and calendar.
However, if a customer instead wants to adopt the A2 plan, which includes the online versions of Office, Lync and SharePoint, or the fee-based and more sophisticated A3 and A4 plans, they must sign a new Microsoft Online Services agreement or a current Volume Licensing Agreement.