Microsoft has flooded the newswires recently with success stories of how its cloud productivity suite Office 365 has helped organizations from Catholic school boards to electronic equipment manufacturers share and communicate in the cloud.
Since the launch of Office 365 last year, web hosts have worked on developing services around the cloud collaboration suite tailored for SMBs. In early May, web hosting provider SherWeb launched its hosted Office365 solution SkyOffice to offer its SMB customers Microsoft Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and enable customers to sync between multiple devices. Microsoft added mobile support for Lync in December, and continues to improve the Office 365 mobile experience.
Also in May, Office 365 received FISMA certification, a designation required for many US government contracts. The FISMA seal may help it compete with Google Apps for government contracts, and expand its reach beyond small and mid-sized business customers.
With the rosy picture painted by Microsoft on the success of Office 365 in recent months, the spotlight has moved away from the fumbled Office Live Small Business customer migration last month. Office Live Small Business officially shutdown on April 30 and customers reported many problems with the migration process. Microsoft has kept quiet on the criticisms on its lack of support, and the failure of its partner, Melbourne IT, in making the transition smooth and simple for customers, many of which made-do without the technical know-how to troubleshoot if something went wrong.
The WHIR reached out to Microsoft to follow-up on the migration troubles, and discuss its measures to help customers through the process. Microsoft offered very little information aside from what is available on its website, highlighting its successful communication with customers, and “comprehensive guidance, videos, and support to make the transition from OLSB to Office 365 or another provider as straightforward as possible.” It also noted in an email response that users were offered six months free of Office 365 and Office Professional Plus to “help ease the transition.”
Microsoft says its partners across the world helped customers through the process, but one partner in particular, Australia-based Melbourne IT received the brunt of the criticism for the botched migration since it provided the domains for OLSB customers. A report by Liz Tay at IT News says Melbourne IT was overloaded with support requests leading up to the OLSB deadline, clogging up phone lines and causing its self-service portal to be accessible intermittently.
According to the report, during the month of April, Melbourne IT received 12,000 support calls per week, 10,000 more calls than a typical week.
A spokesperson for Melbourne IT remarked that a lot of OLSB customers left the transition to the last minute. Customers were notified that OLSB would be discontinued in October 2010, so customers had 18 months to complete the transition. However, even customers that started migrating their sites early had difficulties with the process. Robert L. Mitchell at Computerworld called the process a “nightmare”, and while he started the process in February, he only had his website up and running six days before the OLSB deadline.
Mitchell cited support problems with Melbourne IT. He says OLSB users called Melbourne IT for help without realizing that it only handles the domain registration and Microsoft handles the hosting. Since Microsoft doesn’t have telephone support, and users did not want to pay for support through one of its partners, they were looking to Melbourne IT for help.
“Calls involved very long wait times, and for some reason call quality was poor,” Mitchell writes. “After a 40 minute wait, they would pick up, the call would start to degrade and I’d lose them before I could even get started — frustrating. I sent several email requests to support — the last desperately begging for help. All went unacknowledged for several weeks.”
While free tools were developed by Microsoft partners ValorConseil and Skykick to help users with the transition, some say they still didn’t provide enough automation to make the process seamless.
Microsoft did not indicate how many OLSB users missed the deadline, but promised customers it would maintain Windows Live Hotmail custom email addresses hosted by the service for six months.
Despite the length of time customers had to migrate, the process felt rushed for many. It is important for customers to be clear about how migration works, and that its provider offers all of the information to make that possible including availability requirements. Post-migration support is equally as important as pre-migration support, according to Kenan Rappuchi, director, business development and channel partnerships, WebsiteMovers. In this respect, it would appear that Microsoft could have done a better job.
Talk back: Microsoft relied heavily on its partners to support throughout the migration, but do you think it did enough on its end to help customers directly? Are there any lessons to be learned from this in dealing with your own customer website migrations? Let us know in the comment section.
Help us get better! Fill out our WHIR reader survey to let us know what works and what doesn’t. And enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card.