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Yesterday’s Microsoft Outage Shows Value of Contingency Planning

Yesterday Microsoft confirmed it had an email outage on Exchange Online and Office 365. But they are not the only ones to have experienced this problem.  Their cloud competitors like Google and even Facebook have had the same problems in the last few months. And if you have your email server in house you may well experience downtime much more frequently.

It is important to say that all email and cloud services will have downtime – some of it planned and some not.  But when it happens it is always frustrating and disruptive. But you can do something about this.

It is for this very reason we said on our blog yesterday that two clouds are better than one.

The cloud presents a very compelling business case for customers looking to reduce the cost and complexity of their email environment. Many have already moved to the cloud or will in the coming months and years.

But when you move critical services and data like email to the cloud you must also plan for the inevitability – albeit rare – that the service will go down – just as you would with business continuity solutions on your own infrastructure if you kept it in house.

As it happened, we also announced yesterday our own suite of services for Office 365. These include business and email continuity services designed to give customers just the kind of protection we are talking about here in the event of downtime to Office 365, as was experienced yesterday.

We have provided these continuity services for other platforms for some time, protecting our customers against planned and unplanned downtime of their email be it Exchange, Google Apps or Lotus Notes.

So don’t let yesterday’s events put you off the cloud or Office 365 for that matter.

But if you are on Office 365 already (or thinking about it) or indeed have on-prem or other cloud email providers – do look again at your contingency planning. How will you cope when (not if) your email service is unavailable?

The cloud is great. But two clouds are much better than one when it comes to your business critical applications like email.

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When Two Clouds Are Better than One

Office 365 is more than fulfilling the potential we explored on this blog in March. According to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper, at the recent SharePoint 2014 conference, Microsoft’s Office 365 has completed its 18th consecutive quarter of triple-digit revenue growth.

Two clouds are better than one. With Mimecast as a strategic secondary cloud service alongside Office 365, organizations can reduce the risk associated with a move to the cloud and benefit from additional new functionality at the same time.

Two clouds are better than one. With Mimecast as a strategic secondary cloud service alongside Office 365, organizations can reduce the risk associated with a move to the cloud and benefit from additional new functionality at the same time.

No wonder – the Office 365 proposition is now even more compelling with new iOS apps being well received and next generation business tools like Office Graph capturing the imagination. So, with momentum building, when CIOs consider switching to Office 365 surely the answer is a simple ‘yes’?

For enterprise organizations, it’s actually more complicated.

For these companies the choice of third party on-premises services, like downtime contingency and multi-layered security, reinforces their core Microsoft services to meet their requirements. However, there isn’t a simple migration path to Office 365-compatible equivalents of these usually complex and costly point solutions.

So what’s the answer? It’s certainly not to wait – moving to the cloud is inevitable and to delay adoption of Office 365 would mean your business would miss out on improved agility and reduced cost of ownership. But equally, you don’t want to run the risk of critical business systems like email being exposed to attack or interruption. The fact is, when it comes to your data, any risk is too much risk.

The answer is actually a blended-cloud approach.

A secondary cloud service, like Mimecast, can work seamlessly with Office 365 to enhance security and help ensure business continuity, data redundancy and archiving requirements are met. This is why today we announced a range of new services for Microsoft Office 365 that address some of the concerns CIOs have had about moving to the cloud, paving the way for a swift and risk-free migration.

Mimecast Services for Office 365 will be available in July. Enterprises can select from a range of targeted solutions or opt for a bundle of risk mitigation services. A blended-cloud solution combines the benefits of two clouds into a single, multi-layered service offering, diversifying risk across more than one vendor. Enterprises get key capabilities that help them adopt cloud solutions faster, and allow them to benefit from cloud innovation and agility. If you’d like to find out more about Mimecast Services for Office 365, take a look at our video here.

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The Road to Office 365 – It’s Not ‘If’ but ‘When’ and ‘How’

If there’s one thing we can be sure about it’s that, at some point in the future, almost nobody will manage mailboxes on premises.  The dominant players look like being Microsoft with Office 365 and Google with Google Apps, though of course others may emerge.

Not surprisingly, then, pretty much every CIO in the world has taken a look at these platforms and adopted a stance.  The stance may involve proactive planning now with a rapid migration in mind, or it might be a case of keeping things as they are until the technology matures further.  Or there might be any number of interim steps that will make a migration easier at some point in the future.  I would wager that there is no CIO that hasn’t started thinking about migrating email, in its entirety, to the cloud.

The Road to Office 365 – It’s Not ‘If’ but ‘When’ and ‘How’

The Road to Office 365 – It’s Not ‘If’ but ‘When’ and ‘How’

For the last few years Mimecast has positioned itself as a companion technology to Microsoft Exchange, optimizing our cloud services to deliver maximum value to on premises or hosted Exchange customers.  And now, of course, we’re also providing services for Office 365 customers, in both cloud-only and hybrid environments.  Of our 9,000 or so customers, almost all of whom are on some form of Exchange, we are seeing a growing number using Mimecast and Office 365 together.  With Office 365, we support very clear use cases that address specific customer needs that can’t be met by Office 365 on its own.  It could be a particular compliance or eDiscovery need, or a desire for a ‘cloud-on-cloud’ High Availability solution to protect against downtime.

Office 365 may be the eventual destination for most businesses, but that doesn’t mean there is a crazy rush to migrate there or indeed that it’s the only short to mid-term option.  For example, we’re seeing the Managed Service Provider (MSP) market booming, as smaller businesses offload their Exchange infrastructures and move to hosted Exchange suppliers.  At the other end of the scale, Exchange 13 is an attractive option for companies who want to keep their mailboxes on-site.  And we’re seeing a fair amount of hybrid deployment, with IT moving a subset of users to the cloud, with an independent archive like Mimecast’s giving them the flexibility to toggle mailboxes back and forth between on premises and cloud as they see fit.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  These are all interim measures, albeit interim measures that will be very profitable for those organizations operating in the space for some years to come.

The point, I guess, is that we’re all preparing for an Office 365 world.  At Mimecast, we are building out and optimizing our Office 365-specific portfolio so the use cases are crystal clear.  It’s not simply a question of offering alternative tools to those that Microsoft includes with its Office 365 SKUs, but showing how we offer additional layers of functionality that support specific customer needs.  That way, over time, we actually see ourselves becoming an accelerator, or enabler for Office 365 adoption, since we effectively remove short-term barriers to adoption.

Naturally, Microsoft is working hard to add functionality of its own and make Office 365 as robust and feature rich as possible.  Many of the ‘gaps’ that Michael Osterman calls out in his paper, Office 365 for the Enterprise: How to Strengthen Security, Compliance and Control, will be filled by Microsoft over the coming years.  So does that mean third parties will find it hard to build businesses within this ecosystem?  No.  In fact, as the platform matures, more use cases will emerge just as happened with Exchange many years ago.

Microsoft will certainly want to make sure that the common elements of customer need are properly served by Office 365 off the shelf, but this is a company, unlike Google, that has always been committed to its partners, and to the creation of a vibrant community of ISVs around its core platforms. Office 365 will be no different, and there will be plenty of room for third parties who can help customers not only see over the short term hurdles, but enjoy a first class, zero compromise cloud experience in the longer term.

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From Good to Great – Why Office 365 Needs Mimecast

[Tweet "Office 365 is now the real deal and with Mimecast it goes from good to great"]

From the moment BPOS was first released about five years ago, we’ve consistently said on this blog that we welcome Microsoft’s move to the cloud, that it’ll be a great solution for some businesses, but that mature cloud services like Mimecast’s will play a major role as adoption begins to gain momentum. Well, if BPOS was Microsoft’s trial run, Office 365 is the real deal and it does now seem to be gaining serious traction in the market. But our position remains the same, and in fact the business case for Mimecast’s solutions to enhance Office 365 looks stronger than ever.

Office 365 is positioned by Microsoft as a one-stop-shop, and on the surface looks like something of a panacea for a business looking to outsource email and stop managing an on-premises Exchange server. For many businesses, particularly in the SMB space, it is.

But for larger companies, or those for whom email is a mission critical application, Office 365 may not be quite so alluring. In general, Mimecast customers fall into that category – they want to use best practice cloud services to protect email from threats, and store the data in a secure, highly available archive. And amongst our customer base we’ve seen a preference for keeping Exchange on-site – there’s strong interest in Exchange 13 – or moving to a hybrid model with some mailboxes on-site and others in the cloud.

The blockers to Office 365 adoption seem to fall into three categories.

  • Archiving doesn’t offer sufficient levels of compliance and eDiscovery capabilities
  • Uptime is a concern
  • Exchange Online Protection may not represent best practice email security

We also think a further need will emerge, for a single archive of multiple types of unstructured data, fully searchable both for eDiscovery purposes and for day to day use by end users from their laptops, smart-phones and tablets. An Enterprise Information Archive for Office 365, to use Gartner terminology.

For Mimecast, then, nothing much changes from how we position around on-premise Exchange, where we offer enterprise grade cloud services that remove complexity and cost. With Office 365, it’s less about cost and complexity, and more about the ‘enterprise grade’ piece. As Office 365 adoption gains traction, the ‘pain points’ will also crystallize, and the ecosystem of ‘supporting’ or ‘enhancing’ services will emerge.  It already is emerging.

Is this a bad thing for Microsoft or Office 365?  On the contrary. Businesses who want to go down this path will be reassured that there’s a third party ecosystem of mature cloud services that can enhance the ‘off-the-shelf’ capabilities of the various SKUs of Microsoft’s new cloud solution. We expect to find businesses buying Office 365 plus Mimecast for any one of the three issues above, or potentially buying our entire UEM suite if that’s what best meets their needs. And we also expect companies who’ve already moved to Office 365 to subsequently purchase add-on services to shore up functionality in those key areas, be they compliance or security related, or based on concerns about downtime.

So, to conclude, Office 365 comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes at different price points, ostensibly for businesses with different messaging requirements. It covers a lot of ground, and for many businesses the barrier to purchase is that one or other area of critical functionality doesn’t quite meet requirements. With Mimecast, which works seamlessly within an Office 365 / Exchange context, these perceived short-falls can be fixed, and the barriers to purchase removed. With Mimecast, Office 365 goes from good to great.