Late last year Microsoft launched TFS in the cloud at https://tfs.visualstudio.com. It is free for 5 users and less. Microsoft hasn’t completely worked out the pricing yet for larger teams, but that will be out soon. This is a great opportunity to create an account that can be used to learn more about the ins and outs of TFS. This service does not have SharePoint or Reporting like the full blown TFS would, but for getting familiar with concepts like Work Items, Change sets, Shelf sets, Branching and Merging this a place where all of that can be experimented with and used for your own personal development projects. Cloud TFS does have build services deployed so here is another great learning opportunity to see how the TFS build system works without having to find a server or using your local machine.
Instead of SharePoint and Reports for on line viewing, there is a web portal that gives users of the project the ability to view work items and reports exposing project health, task burn down and others for visualizing project data. This eliminates a lot of the extra stuff that comes with SharePoint and SSRS that tends to distract customers from TFS and muddies the water in terms of losing focus on the data that TFS provides
The same alerting functionality is available from the Cloud version so that team members can receive emails when events like Work Item Assigned or Code Checked In can be sent to team members to allow them to always be aware of what is happening on the project. This can be challenging to set up at large customers who need many approvals to tie a tool into their internal email systems.
There is much more Source Control view ability on in the Cloud implementation of TFS than there is using the current web portal and SharePoint sites. From the web you can view the histories of files and see the comparisons of each version right from the browser. This is handy for teams that might not be using Visual Studio as their IDE for developing things like Java, or other languages that aren’t native to Microsoft. It can also be very useful for seeing changes in non-complied files as well such as HTML and XML without having to have Visual Studio installed.
One of the challenges faced with TFS is that it is such a comprehensive tool. Most organizations already have all of the pieces that TFS brings together already built out using other tools or on many cases the same tools, just not coupled like TFS can couple all project information together. And the challenge is that to demonstrate how their project information can be much more informative using TFS usually requires a significant amount of time from the Project Management, to Infrastructure support to Project participants and up to the ‘C’ level people who can use the information to make critical decisions based on project related data. But with TFS in the Cloud a ‘Pilot’ project can be put together quickly and the focus can be power that TFS brings to bear and less on effort required to implement.