Office 365 is coming to Sydney and Melbourne. Should you care?

Office 365 Australia

Office 365 Australia

 

Microsoft announced in December last year that from March 2015, Office 365 and CRM Online will be hosted in the newly launched Australian Azure data centres in Sydney and Melbourne. Today Australian business using Office 365 are hosted from the Microsoft Singapore data centres. How will this effect your business?

If you are already a Microsoft Office 365 or CRM Online user, your service can only improve. Although it is still not clear when Microsoft will migrate the Australian business currently hosted in Singapore to Australian data centres, once this happens, it will lower the latency for Australian customers. In simple terms, this mean that if you are only using Email from Office 365 and use cached outlook, you are unlikely to feel the improvement. If you are using SharePoint you will feel that the site responds faster and that you can open files quicker and if you are a heavy Lync users and use it for calls, screen sharing and web meetings between your users, you will certainly feel the improvement.

More importantly, if you are not an Office 365 customer, should this be a reason for you to migrate to Office 365? Every business is different, however these are the main points to consider.

One main advantage of local data centres is improved (lower) latency.  As I have already highlighted above, this will only improve the experience for some users.  However, I have heard that a number of IT Consultants have used this argument to steer customers away from Office 365 and to more traditional on premise setups. I can think of two main reasons why someone would do this; 1. It could be a legitimate reason is certain environments (Hosted Desktop where Outlook cannot be cached is one), 2. Lack of understanding of the offering – Microsoft is trying hard to re-educate their partners and this is taking longer than they would like.  Some partners are still referred to as ‘Server Huggers’ and a on premise solutions is what they always lead with. Also these partner may not see Office 365 as a profitable sale so they try and steer customers away from it. Microsoft is certainly oping that having Office 365 in Australia will make these partner get on-board and lead with cloud solutions.

A lot has been written about data sovereignty in the public cloud. Mistakenly people assume that Australian data centres are only governed by Australian law. While the data centres may be located on Australian soil, they are still operated by an American company that will ultimately answer to US law. In June of 2014, I went to a Microsoft event and spent 3 hours listening to a senior Microsoft lawyer discussing this topic. The summary is: If you host your data with Microsoft, the US Government is legally allowed to request access to your data. This will obviously only happen in rare cases and Microsoft has advised that they will take the US Government to court if they feel that the request is unreasonable. The latest I heard about this is that US Government is trying to gain access to data hosted on Microsoft’s Server in Ireland – read more here.

If sovereignty is a concern for you and you are keen to move away from on premise infrastructure, you should look at Australian owned hosting partners. These are obviously governed by Australian law.

Office 365 and CRM Online offer some great features which are well documented, however there are also some shortfalls that could mean that they are not a fit for your business. Some of the shortfalls not discussed often are:

Exchange (Email): There is no backup – Yes that is correct. By default deleted items can only be recovered for 14days, this can be extended to 30 days with a command that an administrator can run. After this period it is not possible to recover items. Some people may refer to Litigation Hold as an option, however it is very different.   Also if your mailbox gets corrupted or you delete a mailbox, you will not be able to restore it. There are 3rd party tools that you can pay a monthly subscription for to give you more backup options, however ultimately if you need an enterprise level backup, you should speak to a Microsoft hosting partner that can give you a tailored solution.

SharePoint: Some advanced development work in not possible on Office 365 SharePoint, however very few business would require this.

Lync: Office 365 Lync is not enterprise voice enabled. If you want to use Lync to make external calls you will need to get this installed on your own servers or hosted by a Microsoft hosting partner.

CRM Online: If you are running an on premise Microsoft GP, NAV or any other ERP/Accounting system do not expect great integration with CRM Online.

In summary, Office 365 and CRM online are both really good products which will experience high growth in 2015. I believe that Office 365 is a great fit for vast majority of business and should certainly be evaluated by anyone thinking of moving to the cloud. The question to your IT recommender should be, Why should I not migrate to Office 365 and CRM online?

I hope that you have found this article interesting and useful. If you have specific questions or business requirements which you would like to discuss, feel free to contact me.

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