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Another BPOS Outage, Office 365 Launch Days Away

I can tell Microsoft Office 365 is about to launch by the flood of related press releases and story pitches swamping my Inbox these last few days—from both Microsoft partners and competitors alike. It also convinces me, if there were any doubt (no, not really), that this is big news, both for Microsoft and the related ecosystem. Of course, having another serious outage of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) just days before the anticipated official launch of Office 355 probably wasn't in the PR plan.

You might have seen this already: Yesterday, users of Microsoft's BPOS services across North America reported an outage of the service where users were unable to sign on. Network World's Julie Bort had a nice post outlining the timeline of the problem ( "Microsoft confirms BPOS cloud outage"). This outage comes after a couple of significant, multi-day outages of the service last month.

With many in the IT world already uncomfortable with cloud services—and, let's face it, there are plenty of reasons to be, such as the FBI raid against LulzSec that also took down other customers in the same data center—I have to wonder if Microsoft now faces a greater challenge to correct users' perceptions of its hosted services. If you read through the support forums at Microsoft Online Services TechCenter, it's clear that a lot of existing customers aren't all that happy with the service they've received on BPOS. Will things be different when Office 365 launches? Microsoft Office 365 logo

Through the very public world of Twitter, a user asked Microsoft that question, and Microsoft Online Services, msonline, responded with, "Yes, O365 should provide a more stable service. It is built from ground up new and reports and expectations are very good." Naturally, I'll reserve judgment, although those I've spoken with in the Office 365 beta have generally been quite impressed, and I don't recall hearing any problems with outages.

Nonetheless, if you're looking at Office 365 as it becomes widely available next week, with its anticipated launch on June 28, or any other cloud service, it's important to remember that you have control of your SLAs—and if you can't get the guarantees you want or need for your business, then the hosted service probably isn't for you. I spoke with Rami Habal, director of product marketing for Proofpoint, who had some good advice: "It really comes down to understanding the risk profile of that vendor, acknowledging that you can indeed hold your cloud vendor accountable, and it should be as transparent as if it were offered on-premises."

Habal recommends that potential cloud customers look deeply into the SLAs offered by cloud vendors, whether that's Proofpoint, Microsoft, or anyone else. Know the ins and outs of their uptime guarantee. Understand what they offer in the way of encryption and how it works, and all the other features that are important to your business. "Consider the fact that not all clouds are created equal," Habal said. "Hold your vendor accountable."

I'm sure we can expect lots more news about Office 365 and its partner ecosystem over the next week, and beyond. Microsoft is making Office 365 one of its priorities—which means they'll be pushing it hard, and in every direction. All indications so far are that it should do very well, although there's still that niggling perception problem that I think they need to address. What do you think?

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins
Follow Windows IT Pro on Twitter at @windowsitpro

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