Microsoft will later today launch the final version of its cloud-based Office productivity application service Office 365.
Office 365 has been in beta since April. It will now be available for all firms and replace the software giant's current enterprise service, Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), over the next 12 months.
Microsoft's worldwide partner group corporate VP tweeted the news on Twitter earlier this month.
Office 365 is made up of the Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online services, plus a choice of Office Professional Plus locally installed applications, and/or a browser-based client that allows light editing of Office files stored in Microsoft's datacentres.
There will be specific Office 365 packages for different-sized firms.
In the beta service there were three offerings; K plans targeting kiosk workers, a P plan targeting small business and IT professional organisations, and E plans focusing on enterprises.
It is expected that Office 365 will include an offering specifically for the education sector as well.
Firms in Europe signing up for the service will have their data hosted at a datacentre in Dublin with a back-up datacentre in Amsterdam.
Transitioning from BPOS to Office 365
In 2010 Microsoft senior product manager for online services Kayvaan Ghassemieh blogged that Microsoft Online Services would be, "offering all existing BPOS customers up to 12 months to transition from BPOS to Office 365".
Microsoft has a website dedicated to transitioning from BPOS to Office 365, and there is a PowerPoint presentation and video available as general guidelines for what firms need to do if they want to make the switch.
Customers migrating from BPOS to Office 365 will need to be aware that Office 365 does not support Office 2003, Internet Explorer 6 or Office Communicator 2007 R2. BPOS Sign In Application will be discontinued and Online Service Connector will be required.
Microsoft's BPOS embarrassingly had a large outage in North America last week. Other cloud service providers such as Amazon and Dropbox have also had large outages this year, giving pause for thought to firms thinking of moving or outsourcing services normally provided on-premise to public cloud service providers.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Microsoft has had service level agreements in place since it launched the Office 265 beta service. The SLAs correspond to three levels of availability – 99.9 per cent, 99 per cent and 95 per cent.
If service drops below 99.9 per cent in the month, Microsoft reimburses firms 25 per cent of the monthly fee. If service drops below 99 per cent, customers get a 50 per cent fee reimbursement for that month. If the service goes below 95 per cent, 100 per cent of all fees will be reimbursed for the month.
For a 30-day month, 'three-nines' availability (99.9 per cent) means an outage of no more than about 43 minutes.
A 99 per cent availability breach ('two-nines') means the service will be unavailable for 7.2 hours. For a 95 per cent availability, the downtime shouldn't go over 36 hours.