It no surprise that Microsoft’s recent shift in focus from software to devices and services has resulted in more of its software catalog being transformed from on-premises software to cloud-based services. Visual Studio Online is one of Microsoft’s latest online cloud-based releases. Before you worry that Microsoft is taking away your favorite development tool and moving it to the cloud, be aware that the name “Visual Studio Online” is something of a misnomer; Visual Studio Online isn’t the cloud-based version of the Visual Studio development environment. Here are answers to FAQs about Visual Studio Online.

Q: What is Visual Studio Online?

A: Visual Studio Online isn’t a hosted or web-based version of the Visual Studio desktop code IDE. Visual Studio Online is the updated version of Team Foundation Service. Visual Studio Online provides developers with a hosted team development platform and code repository and eliminates the need to set up any on-premises infrastructure to support team development. Visual Studio Online runs on Windows Azure, and you can connect to it from some of the most popular development tools, including Visual Studio, Eclipse, and Xcode. A separate cloud development product, code-named Monaco, will allow code development.

Q: What features are available in Visual Studio Online?

A: The primary purpose of Visual Studio Online is to support team development. To that end, the updated development platform provides features that were formerly in Team Foundation Service, including hosted source control, work item tracking, Agile project planning, collaboration, build services, and load-testing services. A new Application Insights feature lets you monitor web applications, as well as collect application performance and telemetry data. Although it’s probably somewhat redundant considering the nature of the tool, Visual Studio Online also includes the free Visual Studio Express for Web, Windows, or Windows Desktop versions.

Related: New Features in Visual Studio 2013

Q: How is Visual Studio Online different from the on-premises Team Foundation Server (TFS)?

A: Visual Studio Online is essentially the newer, cloud-based version of TFS. Microsoft’s new cloud-first methodology means that the cloud versions of products will be on a faster update cycle, with the newest features and fixes being introduced to the cloud products first. Although Microsoft has rapidly accelerated the update cycle for Visual Studio, the development tool is essentially on a quarterly update cycle and will not be updated at the same rate that the online products will be.

Q: How much does Visual Studio Online cost?

A: Visual Studio Online is available in three different versions. Each version supports team projects, hosted code repositories, project planning, bug tracking, and IDE integration. As of February 2014, Visual Studio Online is in preview mode and the pricing is set at a 50 percent discount. The three different Visual Studio Online versions are as follows:

  • Visual Studio Online Basic—The basic version is free and supportsup to five users; additional users are $10 per month.
  • Visual Studio Online Professional—A level above the basic version, the professional version supports a maximum of 10 users per account for $22.50 per month. This version includes Visual Studio Professional IDE.
  • Visual Studio Online Advanced—This version supports an unlimited number of users per account at $30 per month. It also includes Team Rooms and Agile Portfolio Management features.

Q: Since Visual Studio Online is a developer tool, are there any benefits to being an MSDN subscriber?

A: Visual Studio Premium with MSDN provides all the features of Visual Studio Online Advanced, and more. MSDN subscribers with the following types of subscriptions can be added at no charge to a Visual Studio Online account:

  • Visual Studio Professional with MSDN
  • Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN
  • MSDN Platforms
  • Visual Studio Premium with MSDN
  • Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN

In addition, users with Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 or later with MSDN get 15,000 user minutes of free load-testing each month. You can find out more on the Visual Studio Online web page.