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Microsoft Releases 'Switch Wizard' for Office 365 Subscribers

Microsoft is making it easier to switch Office 365 plans with its new "switch wizard" service, announced late last week.

The wizard speeds up subscription changes. There are now two ways to change a subscription to Office 365, which is Microsoft's cloud-based bundle of service offerings. The old way, called a "manual switch" by Microsoft, involves a phone call to Microsoft and manually reassigning the licenses. Now, organizations subscribing to Office 365 can change their subscription through a new switch wizard selection within the Office 365 administration center console, if eligible to make a switch, according to Microsoft's announcement.

The switch wizard can more quickly move end users to the new plan than the manual process. It takes under 10 minutes, plus less than one minute for the licensing reassignment, when using the switch wizard, according to Microsoft's FAQ. Organizations making the switch using the wizard will get credits for any unused portion of their old subscriptions. Microsoft is also promising that there will be no interruption to Office 365 end users during the switch, although IT pros won't be able to use "the Office 365 portal" during the transition, according to the FAQ.

If the account is connected to a credit card and the organization's credit needs to be checked, then that process can take two weeks. The old service continues to be used until the switch gets made.

Using the wizard comes with some caveats. The switch wizard right now can only be used by organizations with 300 or fewer users. All of the users have to be switched over to the new plan when using the wizard. Add-on plans don't transfer when using the wizard. Organizations that purchased a boxed copy of Office 365 Small Business or Small Business Premium via a telco or ISP reseller or via Microsoft's volume licensing can't use the switch wizard at present.

Currently, Microsoft is only permitting the use of the switch wizard within "plan families." For instance, Organizations with an Office 365 Small Business P1 subscription can move to a Small Business P2 subscription, but they can't move to an Enterprise subscription, using the wizard. A manual switch would be required instead to make a change outside of a plan family. Later this year, Microsoft plans to allow cross-family plan switches using the switch wizard, according to the company's announcement.

Microsoft's list of plans that can be switched using the wizard show all of the possible switches going from a lower priced option to a higher priced one. There apparently isn't a way to switch from a higher priced option to a lower priced one using the wizard. Organizations can know that they have the ability to use the switch wizard because it will show up as a link within the Office 365 administration center.

Microsoft's FAQ warns that those who have switched plan families using the manual process cannot switch back. "You can't switch back to your old plan after you switch to a plan in a different service family," the FAQ states. There's no explanation offered for this limitation.

Microsoft has many different Office 365 plans, with different tiers, offered under subscription-based licenses with payments recurring each month. These monthly plans require a year's commitment. Office 365 plans include the Office 365 ProPlus productivity suite, but also sometime Exchange Online, Lync Online or SharePoint Online services, depending on the plan. Microsoft announced its latest Office 365 plans back in February.

Software use rights under the subscriptions are essentially good for as long as the monthly payments continue to be made. In addition, Microsoft also sells its Office 2013 productivity suite on a "perpetual license" basis, where the rights to use the software don't expire.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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