Monday, 24 October 2011

Small businesses warned off Office 365

Microsoft have made quite a fuss about the launch of the cloud version of their Microsoft Office suite of applications (including the hosted version of their Exchange Server for e-mail) - Office 365 - as they seek to catchup in a market where Google have been operating for some time with Google Apps.

It's often said that the devil's in the detail, and boy does that seem to be the case for Office 365 going by the experience of one person who has been deploying Office 365 on behalf of a small business.

The consultant received a call from the company he was working with to be told that they had a rather major problem - all attempts to send e-mails were bouncing with the error message 'Message could not be sent—try again later' coming back to the sender.

Upon digging into why further, he came to a staggering conclusion in finding out about a restriction of the service:
Small business accounts are limited to 500 recipients per 24 hours and enterprise accounts are limited to 1500. Office 365 technical support was unable to tell me when the limitation is reset ... They also said it is very difficult to upgrade from a small business to enterprise Office 365 account. I would need to create a whole new account and migrate the domain and users, so that is not an option.
Terrifyingly that's not a limit per message, it's a limit of recipients per day. If you e-mail me twice in a day that counts as two as he goes on to add:
If I send a message to you and Cc: Mary Jo Foley, that would take up two of my allotted recipients. If I later in the day sent another message to just you, it would take up another recipient, even though I'd already sent a message to you. Unfortunately, 500 recipients when viewed in this fashion really isn't that many.
That really is a staggeringly stupid way of implementing restrictions on a system, Microsoft. When queried they claim that it's an anti spam measure:

Every online service provider must limit and constrain its service based on limitations such as the amount of disk space currently in its datacenters or bandwidth currently available and also enforce behavioral thresholds which prevent inappropriate use of the service by malicious users or criminals. This is true for any form of web-based service.

In the world of email, one of the thresholds that must be enforced is the amount of email that is sent through the system by any one user or organization in order to combat spam, mass-mailing worms & viruses. To ensure that all users experience the level of performance, email delivery expediency and client connectivity behavior that they expect, we must determine what usage typifies behavior of a spammer, for example, and put controls in place to prevent such inappropriate use. We ask customers with legitimate needs for a service that exceeds these thresholds or must go beyond these limitations to contact support so that we can best meet their specific needs.

As ever with Microsoft, of course users can upgrade to a bundle that allows them to send to more recipients at additional cost - but with measures like this it's making decision making for those looking to deploy cloud solutions much easier ... they're just going to head to Google Apps.