With the advent of new Online Services such as Windows Azure and Microsoft Office 365, the Microsoft Support Lifecycle team has focused on bringing the proven principles of predictable and consistent Support Lifecycle policies to Online Services provided via the cloud.

These new Online Services policies really break new ground in the industry for ensuring that Microsoft customers have the exciting benefits of Online Services – such as more rapid enhancements to products – while providing a predictable Support Lifecycle experience.

Historically, customers frequently purchased boxed software for on-premises use. This software was often licensed perennially and Microsoft provided specific Support Lifecycle timeframes for product support such as Mainstream Support and, in the case of Business and Developer products,Extended Support.

While Online Services may have software that is similar to on-premises software, key aspects of the functionality of the product reside in the cloud. Vital to keeping an Online Service working reliably is for Microsoft and customers to keep the related products and services properly updated and maintained.

With the release of the new Online Services Support Lifecycle policies for Microsoft Business and Developer products, we are introducing a new concept we’ve named “disruptive change.”

Disruptive change broadly refers to changes that requires significant action whether in the form of administrator intervention,substantial changes to the user experience, data migration or required updates to client software.

A key aspect of the new Online Services policy is that Microsoft is committed to providing our customers a minimum of 12 months of prior notification before implementing potentially disruptive changes that may result in a service interruption.

An example of this may be providing notification of a required upgrade to Microsoft Outlook to ensure continued functionality with Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services prior to the change actually occurring with the cloud-based service.

Please keep in mind, however, that this policy is regarding regular maintenance and service updates and does not include issues related to security. As with traditional software, security updates in the Online Services realm require prompt application to ensure that customer and Microsoft assets are effectively protected.

In some scenarios, customers may have deployed on-premises software that is connecting to a Microsoft Online Service. In such situations,customers may need to implement changes to their on-premises software for it to remain operable with the Online Service, but the timeframes of Mainstream Support and Extended Support for the on-premises software remain intact and unchanged.

A final concern of the Online Services Support Lifecycle policy is regarding how an Online Service agreement may be terminated. Since customer data may reside in the cloud, Microsoft commits to providing 12 months prior notification before termination of a Business and Developer-oriented Online Service. In addition, to better enable Microsoft customers in any renewal or migration activities, customer data will be preserved for a minimum of 30 days in order to ensure an orderly transition from the Online Service.

Further details on this announcement and the support timelines are available on the MSL website: http://support.microsoft.com/gp/OSSLpolicy

Thanks for your continued questions and comments. More information on Microsoft’s support policies can also be found on the Microsoft Support Lifecycle website.

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