Last week, Microsoft experienced several outages of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). As ZDNet noted, with so few users, nobody really noticed (as opposed to every Google performance or service issue making headlines).
In our opinion, the outage tells a much more important story — the difference between a hosted server and a cloud-based solution. MS BPOS runs as hosted servers on shared physical servers. In effect, Microsoft is installing their servers on hardware the same way you would install them as virtual servers on shared hardware. Microsoft is honest in that none of the services run in a replicated or redundant way. With the exception of email, for which users should be able to send, receive and access 30 days history, if your virtual server or physical server has troubles, you are out of luck.
The implications are serious. Without redundant services or data, any failure puts you, the customer, at risk for data loss. Imagine a server failure that corrupts an underlying SharePoint database. Access to documents, wiki’s, and other content can easily be lost. As Microsoft offers no clear mechanism for backing up data, data you place in BPOS is likely at greater risk than keeping it on in-house systems.
Granted, Microsoft’s big customers (like Coca Cola) can negotiate for special services. For the rest of the user community, at $120 per user per year, you would just be out of luck.
Here is a blog posting praising the virtues of BPOS and possible backup strategies. Clearly, the author does not get it. Why would you trust your data on a service, like Sharepoint, where after a disaster impacting your servers hosted by Microsoft, you are likely to wait 6 days to get data that is 7 days old from the point of failure? That is effectively a 13 day gap in information.
Fundamentally, MS BPOS misses the mark. Either Microsoft doesn’t understand the needs of businesses or they are unable of providing the level of service smart businesses require.