Posts Tagged 'Visual Studio Online'

Understanding Team Foundation Server (TFS) Pricing

I used to think Team Foundation Server was expensive. As it turns out, it is very affordable and sometimes free. There are three different versions of TFS: Team Foundation Server, Team Foundation Server Express Edition and Visual Studio Online.

TFS Express Pricing

TFS Express is a free, and can be downloaded here and installed on any computer with Windows 7 or higher. There are some limitations to TFS Express which include the following:

  • It is limited to 5 users.
  • Project data can only be stored in SQL Server Express Edition, (this means any single project would be limited to 10 GBs).
  • Can only be installed on one server, (full versions of TFS can be split across multiple servers for performance and redundancy).
  • Some advanced analytics are not supported.

As you can see from the limitations, TFS Express won’t work for large teams and large projects. However, it would be fine for smaller teams and departmental projects.

Visual Studio Online Pricing

Visual Studio Online is Microsoft’s cloud-based version of Team Foundation Server. See the article “What is Visual Studio Online?” for more information. Visual Studio Online has two options, a basic option and an advanced option which includes some advanced features. The basic option is free for the first 5 users, then $20 per month for additional users. The advanced option is $60 per month for all users.

However, there is no charge for developers who already have Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscriptions. Essentially, if you have an MSDN subscription you already are paying for Visual Studio Online (or TFS) whether you use it or not. A lot of companies are paying for MSDN, but aren’t using TFS because they think it is expensive, not knowing that they are already paying for it.

Team Foundation Server Pricing

If you want a local install of the full version of TFS you need a server license and each developer needs a client license. The server license can be purchased for about $500 and the client licenses are about the same.

However, just like with Visual Studio Online, TFS is included with MSDN subscriptions. So, if you already use Microsoft tools you may already be paying for it.


Getting started with TFS is easy and affordable. If you’re working with a team of 5 or fewer people, you can use TFS or Visual Studio Online for free. If you are an MSDN subscriber you are already paying for TFS.

Team Foundation Server Training

Team Foundation Server makes it easy to manage and track work on any type of project, and this is just a small sampling of the capabilities of TFS. Visual Studio Online makes getting started with TFS easy, and for small teams it is free. To learn more about TFS you may be interested in Learning Tree course 1816, Agile Software Development with Team Foundation Server.


Doug Rehnstrom


Managing Projects with Team Foundation Server (TFS)

Recently at Learning Tree, we wrote a training course on Team Foundation Server (course 1816, Agile Software Development with Team Foundation Server). It seemed natural to use TFS to manage the course writing process.

Creating the Team Project

We used the online version of TFS, called Visual Studio Online to manage this project. Visual Studio Online was perfect for two reasons. First, it is free for up to five users (and a course development team is that small). Second, all the members of the team work in different locations, thus everything needs to be accessed online. (See the post “What is Visual Studio Online?” for more information.)

We created a team consisting of the three people (the author, technical editor and product manager). Every task must be assigned to a team member. We also added a team member named “1816 Team”. This is for tasks that need to be done by the team collectively, not done by an individual.

Defining Team Members

Dividing the Project into Iterations

At Learning Tree we have a number of milestones when developing a course. We have a course planning meeting. A few weeks later there is an alpha meeting. Then, there is the beta of the course, and lastly there is the first run of the course. Before the end of each of these milestones there is a long list of tasks that need to be accomplished.

These milestones provided natural iterations for the project. These iterations and their start and end dates were entered when defining the project.

Defining Iterations


Adding Work to the Backlog

The next step was to add everything that needs to be done to the backlog. Each item is assigned to a team member (or the team collectively) and an estimate of effort is assigned to each item as well. An example backlog item is shown below.

Adding Backlog Items


To accomplish a backlog item, a number of specific tasks need to be done. So, each backlog item is divided into tasks. Like backlog items, tasks are assigned to team members and their effort is estimated. An example is shown below.

Dividing Items into Tasks

Each backlog item is assigned to an iteration. This is just a matter of dragging and dropping each item into the appropriate iteration using the online tool. The final results look as shown below.

Product Backlog


This might seem like a lot of work, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. All tolled maybe we spent a couple hours on this. It’s also something that can evolve; at any time items can be added, removed or changed.


Tracking Project Progress

The obvious question is, “why would I want to do all this?” First, it makes it easy for team members to know what they need to do. Second, it helps the manager know whether the team is on schedule or not.

In addition to the backlog, there is a Kanban board view of the project. The Kanban board graphically depicts what each team member is working on, what they have finished and what they have left to do. Each team member just needs to drag items into the appropriate column and update the work remaining for each item as they do their work. The Kanban board can be organized either by team member or by backlog item. See the screenshots below.


Kanban Board Organized by Team Member

Kanban Board Organized by Backlog Item


Team Foundation Server Training

Team Foundation Server makes it easy to manage and track work on any type of project, and this is just a small sampling of the capabilities of TFS. Visual Studio Online makes getting started with TFS easy, and for small teams it is free. To learn more about TFS you may be interested in Learning Tree course 1816, Agile Software Development with Team Foundation Server.


Doug Rehnstrom



What is Visual Studio Online?

The name “Visual Studio Online” might be misleading. Visual Studio Online is not an online version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio development tool. It is actually an online version of Team Foundation Server (TFS).

Visual Studio Online and Team Foundation Server are complete application lifecycle management tools. The advantage of Visual Studio Online over TFS is it is completely managed by Microsoft in the cloud. All you have to do is create an account and you’re off and running. Microsoft will manage the servers and do the backups for you automatically.

Once you have your account, you and your development team can create any number of projects. Each member of the team can utilize Visual Studio Online to help manage his or her work.


Visual Studio Online Home Page



Visual Studio Online for Analysts

Business analysts can use Visual Studio Online to enter work items and documentation. This documentation can be as detailed and sophisticated as needed. Customizable templates are included to make entering requirements consistent and simple. Documentation is formatted as html and external files like images and models can be added as attachments.


Work Item Input Screen



Visual Studio Online for Programmers

Programmers can utilize Visual Studio Online for source control, automated builds and integrated unit testing. Visual Studio Online integrates seamlessly with Visual Studio, and can be used from other development tools like Eclipse and Xcode as well. Multiple source control systems are supported out-of-the-box. Automated builds can easily be setup to compile the code, run all the unit tests, and even deploy the application to test servers.


Source Code Screen


Visual Studio Online for Testers

Testers can use Visual Studio Online manage user acceptance tests. Test scripts can be entered. A test runner is included for testers to enter the results. There is sophisticated reporting included to track tests over time.


Test Management Screen


Visual Studio Online for Managers

Managers can use Visual Studio Online to track team progress. Large projects can be divided into iterations. Work items can be scheduled within iterations and assigned to team members. Team members can easily enter their progress on work items assigned to them. The tool automatically creates product backlogs, Kanban boards and burndown charts.


Product Backlog


Kanban Board



Getting Started with Visual Studio Online

Getting started with Visual Studio Online is easy. There is nothing to install or setup as everything can be done within the browser. Visual Studio Online is even made available for free for teams of five or less. All you need to get started is a Microsoft account.


Go to the URL, for more information. Click the “Get started for free” link to set up your account.



Visual Studio Online and Team Foundation Server Training

You may also be interested in Learning Tree course 1816, Agile Software Development with Team Foundation Server which will get you and your team quickly up to speed using both Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio Online.

Doug Rehnstrom

Learning Tree International

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