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The case for slowing a move to the cloud

J. Peter Bruzzese | March 23, 2011
InfoWorld's Windows columnist drank too much of the cloud Kool-Aid -- until two slaps in the face made him reconsider his enthusiasm

Should I recant my support of Microsoft's cloud services?
Between Minasi's session and Cordial's email, I have to say I'm feeling a little deflated. I've been pushing the move to the cloud for so many services -- especially Exchange as a BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard) admin and Office 365 promoter. Should I step back and warn people away from the cloud, especially with many admins worried that this move could cost them their jobs in the long haul?

Well, I'm a little afraid of flying too, but that doesn't stop me from hopping a plane to Las Vegas when it's time for the next conference. It's true: Things can go wrong on a plane and that seatbelt isn't going to do much if we hit anything more than a modicum of turbulence. However, I still strap in, like everybody else.

Panic is unwarranted, and so is hiding in your data center cave. However, we should all listen to messages from people like Minasi and Cordial, who are trying to shake us out of the cloud hype trance we're getting from vendors, consultants, and pundits: Be careful. Make sure you have everything in writing. Know how you would reclaim your Exchange or SharePoint or whatever data, in the event you decide it's best to bring this stuff back in house or move it to another, more cost-effective (perhaps), or more polished provider.

You have to qualify your provider -- it's a key element. After all, we're talking about a vendor that will be handling your data, so you cannot afford to be lazy. How long has it been in business? What platforms is it using, and what encryption is exercised for your data? Where is your data stored and what disaster recovery processes are in place? What happens if your vendor is acquired by another company, either local or abroad?

Practicing what I preach: Checking Microsoft's cloud commitment
It's one thing for me to tell you to be careful about what you do and who you buy from, but it's quite another for me to follow my own advice. Truth be told, I haven't done so. I'm a BPOS client with an eager desire to move to Office 365 and a platform for telling others to use these online services from Microsoft, but I've never read Microsoft's SLAs.

After the Minasi presentation and Cordial email, I realized I had to practice what I'm preaching, so I read through the commitments Microsoft makes in its SLAs. If Microsoft doesn't live up to those commitments, its SLA is clear that Microsoft owes customers service credits against the monthly service fees. The SLA spells out what is considered to be downtime, and it commits to those credits if the monthly uptime falls below 99.9 percent. For email, Microsoft also provides service-level guarantees for virus detection and spam blocking, including maximum acceptable levels for false positives. Microsoft's Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) also has service levels for uptime and email delivery.The bottom line: I was pleased with the SLAs.


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