Office 365 – Is it too Cloudy?

As of October 2013, Microsoft reports that 90 percent or more of its Office 365 business customers have been upgraded to the new underlying foundation of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online. The upgrades for the remaining business customers are anticipated to be completed within the next several months.

Many organizations are considering Office 365, including many small / medium-sized business – a group which comprises the lion’s share of Office 365 subscribers since June 2011.

But there are caveats… First, the licensing can be extraordinarily complex with dozens of new SKUs or part numbers for Office 365 offerings. So determining which plan to purchase, like with most Microsoft licensing issues, relies on the starting point (i.e., the current environment) and the objective (i.e., the planned environment).

Second, Office 365 – at some point to be hosted on Azure – will adopt the more rapid update frequency that the other Microsoft teams have. So this prompts the questions: How might this affect home-grown applications that are tightly coupled with Office Applications? And what are the alternatives? By ceding deployment, support, and the authority to implement updates to Microsoft, an organization is essentially relinquishing control over certain aspects of their operations – perhaps mission-critical ones – to the procedures and practices of Microsoft.

Another way of viewing the hosting of tightly coupled applications is that the organization could effectively be deciding to decouple these applications, to sunset them, to invest in other solutions, or to maintain a local copy of the software that supports these applications. It’s essential to assess the advantages and disadvantages that accompany each of these scenarios.

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