Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The perils of outsourcing

Earlier today Stefan Krueger posted a pointer to the Microsoft's Office Live Small Business service outage that has apparently resulted in the loss of customer data.

This is not the first service failure for the Microsoft Office Live Small Business service. There was a similar incident in February and (according to customers quoted in the article) a number of smaller intermittent outages since then. I'm not suggesting that it's easy to run these data centers but if the hosting company can't protect your data then why would you hand it over to them in the first place? Would you give your money to a bank that didn't promise to give all of it back?

In this case the data loss was confined to email, but I don't see a guarantee that the next outage won't hit the data servers. Goodbye spreadsheets!

I can understand the temptation for a SMB to hand over all of their IT worries to a "big brother" who promises to look after them but IMHO when push comes to shove it'll be VERY difficult to get any sort of leverage over Microsoft to get your data back. I mean if the White House couldn't get Microsoft to provide sufficient technical assistance to retrieve all of their emails then what chance has Joe the Mechanic and his ten man team got? "Sorry about that service outage Joe. We did think about trying to retrieve your data but we compared the cost in M$ man-hours against the potential adverse publicity and decided we would rely on clause 175(b) subsection 2 of our service contract which states blah blah blah..."

The possibility of vendor (ie Microsoft) lock-in was emphasized in the last paragraph of the Infoworld article by a quote from a Microsoft customer who lost their data in the recent outage:

'Reilly says that while he's disappointed with Office Live Small Business, he doesn't plan to switch. "I'm kind of stuck with them," he said.'

Ominous words. Well, if I'm going to be stuck then I'll get stuck with Foundations Server and its automated backup so if I lose my data then I've only got myself to blame. This way I also get the choice of what OS to run for my staff and to decide whether I want the MS Office elephant or one of its more nimble competitors.

Not a very hard decision.

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