Microsoft Office 365

Integrating Alfresco with Office Online in Office 365 – Options?


Alfresco is an enterprise content management and business process management vendor. In the early days, Alfresco cut through the noise due to one of the founders being ex-Documentum, one of the players-to-beat in the ECM space at the time. Over the years, the firm has matured its offerings, and of specific interest in this post, has inserted itself into firms as a SharePoint replacement (for some SharePoint functions). The latest version of its integration is called Alfresco Office Services, which:

… provides a fully-compatible SharePoint repository that allows Microsoft Office Suite applications (for example, Word, PowerPoint and Excel) to interact with Alfresco as if it was SharePoint. AOS enables online editing for Office documents within Alfresco Share and allows users to modify Office files without checking them in and out. Alfresco locks the file while it is being modified and releases the lock when the file is saved and closed.

So here’s the question: in the new world of Office 365, how does Alfresco provide an integration with Office Online? If there is no app installed on the client’s computer which can be intercepted for saving into an Alfresco repository … what then?

This video from Microstrat shows a way of doing this:

What’s of specific interest to me in the video is that the document is pushed out from Alfresco to OneDrive for Business. That is, another copy is created in the current user’s OneDrive for Business account. From OneDrive for Business the document can be shared with others, or opened with Office apps or Office Online. When the user has finished editing or co-authoring the document, the person who pushed the document to OneDrive for Business must then check the document back in – bringing the updated copy from OneDrive for Business. So yes, Office Online has been used, but there is now a second and separate copy floating around in OneDrive for Business. That’s a weakness … perhaps fundamentally so.

What other possibilities are there?
– Searching for “office online” on the Alfresco web site returns zilch.
– Searching for “office 365” on the Alfresco web site returns nothing helpful.
– Pratyush at Algoworks says that integrating Office apps and Alfresco can be done (as noted above), but that “integrating Alfresco and Alfresco Cloud with Office 365 is a different game altogether and a topic of another post.” I look forward to reading that post.
– Some Alfresco partners are working to enhance the SharePoint and Alfresco integration options, such as Zia Consulting and SeeUnity. Partners may provide something of an answer.
Technology Services Group says they can deliver an integration between systems like Alfresco and Office 365 in order to support the use of Office Online. They too use OneDrive for sharing the file, but critically also state that “when a document is checked in from Office 365, our integration deletes the document to prevent any confusion.” That’s good.

Unless Alfresco joins the Cloud Storage Partner Program – to enable “cloud storage providers the opportunity to integrate Office Online into their web-based experiences …. [so] users will be able to view and edit PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents stored in third-party cloud storage,” I don’t know of any current better approaches.