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Microsoft Unveils Online Services Support Lifecycle Policy

Microsoft announced today that it has rolled out a new support lifecycle policy for its Online Services offerings.

The online policy differs from Microsoft's support lifecycle policies for its customer premises-installed business products, which generally have two support periods of five years each (called "mainstream support" and "extended support"). Online Services represent a different support scenario because the hosted applications are updated and maintained by Microsoft, on an ongoing basis, at its server farms. Consequently, the support lifecycle policy for Online Services varies from that of the installed products.

A Microsoft blog post explained that the support lifecycle for Online Services mostly becomes a consideration when Microsoft plans to deliver a so-called "disruptive change."

"Disruptive change broadly refers to changes that require significant action whether in the form of administrator intervention, substantial changes to the user experience, data migration or required updates to client software," the blog explains. Security updates delivered by Microsoft aren't considered by the company to be disruptive changes.

Under the Online Services support lifecycle policy, Microsoft plans to notify Online Services customers 12 months in advance "before implementing potentially disruptive changes that may result in a service disruption," the blog states.

The Online Services support lifecycle policy doesn't alter policies associated with Microsoft's premises-installed products. Customers using a hybrid approach, combining premises-installed Microsoft software plus services provided by Microsoft, will have to update those premise-installed products. In some cases, those on-premises updates must be applied to ensure continued integration with the online services.

The policy also spells out what happens when Microsoft ends a service. Microsoft will provide 12 months advance notice to the customer before ending a "Business and Developer-oriented Online Service," the blog explains. There's a 30-day holding period before removing customer data from Microsoft's server farms.

Microsoft's announcement today constitutes its debut of the new Online Services support lifecycle policy. For those organizations already subscribed to Microsoft's Online Services, implementation of the policy will take place this year or the next, depending on the contract, according to the Microsoft Online Services support lifecycle FAQ. Microsoft will deliver any notices about disruptive changes to the administrative contact established on the account.

Microsoft Online Services includes Windows Azure, Microsoft's platform in the cloud, along with various software-as-a-service offerings such as Office 365, which combines productivity, unified communications and collaboration apps. Microsoft also plans to roll out Windows Intune, a PC management service, sometime this year. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced the availability of Dynamics CRM 2011 Online, a hosted customer relationship management app. Microsoft's current Online Services offerings are described at this page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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