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Will Outages Affect Your Appetite for Office 365?

Last week's Exchange Online outages provided a healthy reminder that chances are, if you sign on for Microsoft's Office 365, at some point you may be destined to experience service interruptions, if not a full-blown loss of service.

Some angry Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) customers reported they were down for many hours last week. And yesterday, Microsoft confirmed more problems in the form of delays in messages going through (most were by 15 minutes to an hour, All About Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley reported).

Those affected by the outages have expressed frustration and even raised questions as to whether moving off an in-house system to Microsoft's Office 365 is a prudent thing to do.

"If really bad delays continue, there is little doubt we will be migrating back to internal Exchange or maybe corporate Gmail. Business cannot function like this and I would have very little confidence in MS's ability to support its SLA in either this or Office [365]," said one poster to the Microsoft Online Services Forum.

Microsoft acknowledges that service problems are inevitable but expressed confidence that they will be minimal and will be addressed expeditiously. "Any time you run a service for someone else there may be hiccups and we do our best to remove those hiccups," said Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft's Online Services, business in an interview this week.

"We are continuously learning. It's no different than if customers ran the software themselves, where you can continuously learn to run the software better or run your services better or support better, or communications better," Rizzo said. "It's going to be a little bit of a learning process for both us and our customers and our partners, but we're committed a thousand percent to try to make the service as seamless as possible and make sure it's meeting the SLAs that we promised."

Indeed, others were more sanguine about the notion that outages are inevitable regardless whether Exchange, SharePoint and other applications are hosted internally or externally. Case in point is the city of San Francisco, which this week announced it is converting its in-house farm of messaging systems (a mixture of Lotus Notes and Exchange) to Microsoft's Exchange Online.

The city said it will spend $1.2 million a year to convert 23,000 mailboxes to Exchange Online, which is now part of BPOS but will transition to Office 365 over the next year.

San Francisco's CIO Jon Walton said while he was concerned about the outages, it did not affect his decision to go with Exchange Online. He suggested the city has experienced outages with its in-house systems and if there has to be an outage, he'd rather it be Microsoft's problem and not his to deal with.

"In the past when we've had outages, it was a complex problem to solve. You had seven systems. If the outage happened in the evening, you were calling workers back in," Walton said. "With the Microsoft solution, they are available 24x7 to us."

Others I've chatted with this week had similar feelings. What's your take? Have recent outages by Microsoft and other providers affected your willingness to turn your messaging and collaboration infrastructure over to Microsoft even with their financially-backed service-level agreements? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 20, 2011


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