In the past few months, like many SharePoint consultants, I have spent some time playing with Office 365, Microsoft’s own SharePoint hosting offer.
Having read on many blogs how great Office 365 is, once again I’ll go against the grain to express some frustration I had with public websites (plan E3).
On the paper, the SharePoint architecture offered in plan E3 looks very attractive:
- On the one side, a collaborative site collection with secure access (https). Anonymous users are not allowed here.
- On the other side a public site collection with pre-built pages (Home, Contact Us, etc.). Business users can easily do simple customization – add a logo, move the navigation, etc. In addition, Microsoft offers a set of “gadgets” that can be added to the pages to insert a contact form, a map, etc.
I really like the clear separation between public and private sites. I also like the gadgets set, which makes it easy to add functionalities that are not available in SharePoint out of the box, like contact forms (several bloggers have claimed that they could build secure contact forms with SharePoint OOTB… but none has proved it!).
So, what’s my problem? Here is the catch: the usual content management features, that make SharePoint such a powerful application, are not available on the pages designed for the public site. You cannot, for example, manage your public announcements in an Announcements list, and have these announcements displayed on the Home page via a Web Part.
You can read about my discovery path in this thread from the Office 365 forum (obviously I was not in a good mood when I stumbled upon this):
I also wrote about it and my current workaround on LinkedIn.
To conclude on a bright note, I really appreciate Microsoft’s recent efforts to get more involved in the community and provide proactive support. Special thanks to Jason Hennis for getting back to me and investigating the issue.