Microsoft Office 365, information management
Since the launch of Office 365, Microsoft has been very guarded with any information about things like use, subscription numbers, and -- most important for business users -- its uptime. Now, however, it made a clean breast of at least the uptime element, giving itself nearly straight A’s for the past 4 quarters.

Office 365 Uptime Figures

According to an Office blog post, for the year from July 2012 to the end of June 2013, Office 365 had an uptime of 99.98%, 99.97%, 99.94% and 99.97% for each successive quarter respectively. For the sake of clarity, uptime is the amount of time that services provided by a vendor are actually available to users.

What is even better is that it promises to provide quarterly figures for uptime from here on in, which should offer current and potential users the confidence they need to sign-up, or stay signed-up if they are already customers.

Microsoft says it has calculated the uptime based on the number of minutes Office 365 was available over the course of a calendar month compared with the number of minutes in month.

Other things worth noting is that this figure was also calculated based on the number of people using any one of the given services like SharePoint, or Office Web Apps.

As these services come as a package, Microsoft said it lumped all the stats for each app and for each user together no matter what service they were using. The figures also include services for business, education users and government users.

Office 365 Possible Downtime

However, there is a caveat here. Microsoft also says that individual customers may experience more,  or less uptime than others without indicating where and when these variations might occur. It’s a small point, but given that Microsoft  is trying to push this globally, it might be worth providing those figures as well. As if to preempt any complaints from current users it adds:

We understand that there will be times when you may experience service interruptions. We do a thorough post-incident review every time an incident occurs regardless of the magnitude of impact…In the interest of transparency and accountability, we share post-incident review for any major service incidents if your organization was affected.

Behind all this is a Service Level Agreement that appears to offer financial compensation if the service does not provide 99.9% uptime, although how that actually works in practice is not clear.

Problems Obscured By Stats?

Why Microsoft has decided to do this is not obvious, but there has been pressure on the company to make this information available in the same way Salesforce, or Google Apps does, particularly for business users. After all, without this kind of information it is impossible for users to make an informed decision before buying.

There also is a problem with this data that Microsoft may or may not resolve in future now that it has started the ball rolling. The problem is that the figures are quarterly and not monthly, cover three different verticals -- business, government, education -- and multiple services across multiple organizations.

As a result it is possible that a significant outage may hit a large enterprise, or even a region, but because the information comes from such a wide segment of Microsoft’s customer base, that outage may not even register a blip in the overall statistics. This is particularly true given that Microsoft has not said whether it will make details of these outages public.

That said, Microsoft must be feeling fairly confident about the uptime if it is finally releasing information like this. Given claims that Office 365 is one of the fastest growing areas of its business -- now worth more than US$ 1 billion annually of recurring revenues -- it probably felt obliged to provide that information in the face of growing demands for it.

However, it’s a step forward, and one to be encouraged especially as the positive response to the news may actually convince Microsoft to release more details about Office 365 and even its other products.