With Microsoft Flow being generally available to all starting today, you may wonder what Microsoft Flow is and how to get started using Microsoft Flow. Similar to IFTTT, Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service for business users to build workflows that automate time-consuming business tasks and processes across applications and services.
Microsoft Flow allows you to automate everyday tasks using your favorite apps and services in order to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more without the hassle of handling these tasks yourself. Right now, Microsoft Flow has 58 support services available to choose from so you can turn those repetitive tasks into easily manageable, automated tasks.
Here is a YouTube video playlist of helpful Microsoft Flow videos.
Microsoft Flow connects to a range of data sources and Microsoft aims to add more continues to add more data sources and services in the future. Here are some examples of data sources and services that Microsoft Flow offers: SharePoint, Dynamics 365, OneDrive, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Trello, Twitter, Box, Facebook, SalesForce.com, and Mailchimp (Here is the full list of connectors).
All you really need to start using Microsoft Flow is a web browser and an email address. Microsoft Flow supports current versions of Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari. Currently, Microsoft Flow supports email addresses ending in .com, .edu, and .org (at this time, Microsoft Flow does not support .gov or .mil email addresses).
Microsoft Flow is the successor to SharePoint Designer 2013 and is used for common business scenarios such as approvals, document review, and onboarding/offboarding. In the future, Microsoft Flow will be the default tool for business automation in SharePoint.
In addition, there are two mobile apps available for Microsoft Flow, on Android and iOS. While Microsoft Flow is a public cloud service only, there is the option to install Microsoft Flow to on-premises data gateways. Interestingly, Microsoft does not yet have a Windows 10 or Windows 10 Mobile app available.
Microsoft Flow offers three plans that are based on how much you plan on using Microsoft Flow. All Microsoft Flow monthly plans allow for unlimited flow creation but depending on how much you intend to use it, there are limits on just how many “runs” and “checks” on the flows you create.
Microsoft Flow uses “runs” and “checks” to handle automation tasks. Runs are considered anytime a Microsoft Flow task is triggered (either automatically or manually) and checks (the time interval at which the runs are initiated). Microsoft Flow has pre-built templates for popular and common usage scenarios. When using a template, all you need to do is to have access to the services available in the template and fill out any required settings.
It’s recommended that you use a free 90-day trial before you commit to a paid plan. Flow Free is good if you want to try out Microsoft Flow and play around with the basic features, but I quickly found that I maxed out the number of flow runs after only a couple of days. Also, with 15-minute checks, my flows weren’t running as often as I would like and I was likely missing out on how productive my flows could’ve been.
Flow Plan 1 is $5 a month and offers a better suited 4,500 allowed runs with 3-minute flow checks per month. Flow Plan 2 is better suited for heavy business users, at $15 a month, allowing for 15,000 runs per month with 1-minute flow checks.
Microsoft Flow provides features with the help of line-of-business users to create automated workflows. Azure Logic Apps is an Azure service available that offers some of the same helpful features as Microsoft Flow, but with added features such as integration with Azure Resource Manager, Azure Portal, PowerShell, Visual Studio, and others. Find out more information about Azure Logic apps.
Microsoft intends for Flow to be part of its business application platform that includes PowerApps, Common Data Service, Dynamics 365 and Office 365. Microsoft Flow is directed towards line-of-business users know their business needs well and can easily analyze, compose and streamline data and processes.
At this time, Microsoft Flow does not allow you to share flow templates or flows you create. Microsoft hopes to allow users to allow for sharing flows within an organization or with a specific person by the end of 2016. At General Availability (GA), Microsoft Flow is available in 42 languages and is available in 6 regions, including the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, India, and Japan. Canada and the United Kingdom will be available at some point after GA.
Microsoft Flow allows for up to 25 flows, if you or your organization need to use more, you can request them from Microsoft. One bonus of using Microsoft Flow is that Microsoft has safeguards in place to ensure corporate data is not accidentally released on social media. Corporate IT administrators can create rules with Microsoft Flow’s data loss prevention policies to allow only sanctioned social media services to be used for specific content.
Be sure to check out the Microsoft Flow community to ask questions and share ideas with other Microsoft Flow users. Microsoft Flow Support has a number of useful resources, including guided learning, template samples, or documentation if you run into any issues you can’t fix yourself.
Download Microsoft Flow for Android and iOS