On Premises vs Cloud – An insight into services uptime and support availability differences

What are you getting by moving to “Cloud services” vs “on-Premise”? Make sure expectations are set with Executive Management as to what they’re gaining, but also losing.

Over the past 30 years I’ve seen a push from Cloud to On-Prem to Cloud and back untold amounts of times. Yes, those terms were not specifically used, technologies evolve, but the pendulum swings back and forth for many reasons. Right now there’s a massive push for “Cloud being the holy grail”, business owners are embarrassed if they’re not there, strongly feel they’re missing out, and doing it wrong if not.

Over the years, the biggest reason I’ve seen it swing back to “On-Prem”, staying insourced, or any other naming convention that’s used is due to support, speed, service uptime, and reliability!

We all know that “Cloud” is supposed to be so much cheaper when you factor in support costs vs paying for full inhouse salaries, however, setting expectations is quite important. The saying “you get what you pay for” absolutely applies here.

Let’s take one system as an example: Microsoft Exchange is a complex system, dependent on a very wide range of infrastructure. Yes, to support that service in one’s company an administrator must be well versed in a large variety of systems and technologies, and as a result, that person will be expensive to have on staff.

If you have access to such a resource (on staff, on a retainer, etc.), system availability is high, with rapid fault resolution when events occur.

Amongst many other things, I personally concurrently manage the Msft Exchange environments for 6 different companies, 3 of them over 10 years now. How much of my time does that take up? An average of 60 min a week for all of them combined! (wait, wha….?? I thought environments like that are a beast to manage? – Well, not when they’re configured correctly, and maintained) – These are highly available, fully redundant systems mind you. In those 10+ years, not once has any company been out of email service for over an hour due to systems under my support. (Once an ISP was down for several hours on the US East coast, and that caused a long lasting service outage for one of the companies) – Have there been issues? Absolutely, but the resolution has typically been under 30 min once contacted, with full system availability nearly constant during business hours.

Let’s look at Microsoft 365 Cloud email service in comparison:

I was recently hired by an very large company to migrate their on-premise Exchange service to 365, and in just the first 6 months of doing so, email outages for them have already been:

  1. Over 4 hours
  2. Over an entire day
  3. Half a day
  4. Several 1 hour outages

If this were systems I was in charge of managing, with very good reasoning, I would be out of a job! Everyone knows that “Cloud” is the best though, so we just work around it, and chalk it up to “eh, it’s what management wants….”

Let’s talk about 365 support for a bit:

When you call do in for support, mean time for incident resolution spans between several hours, to several days! Unless you spend a very good amount of money on fast support, the only available options are submitting a support request on the portal and wait for someone to call you back (typically in a couple of hours). Hopefully, you’re available to work on the request, but the vast majority of time, you’re not, so realistically, that support ticket can span several days! – My experience, close to 90% of the time I get a call back when I’m out of any ability to work on the issue, it’s madding! – Yes, those support requests are not for an entire system being down (those, you have zero visibility into “why, when will it come back up, etc….” best of luck…), I’m talking about any wide ranging amount of reasons you have to call in support due to the fact you don’t control or have access to the full infrastructure.

There are loads of reasons to move your infrastructure to the “cloud”, but if you do, make sure expectations are set with Executive Management as to what they’re gaining, but also losing by doing so. In my experience, service availability, and performance is worse, with possible feature set lost for the (uh, cloud is usually higher) cost of licensing and supporting on-premise solutions.

Here are some links during for very large Office 365 outages during September/October, there have been other large ones earlier that a simple web search can bring up:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-28/microsoft-says-office-365-teams-other-online-services-are-down

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2020/09/29/what-caused-the-massive-microsoft-teams-office-365-outage-yesterday-heres-what-we-know

Author: Luke Edson

Luke has extensive experience in a wide variety of systems, focusing on Microsoft technologies, Communication with Exchange and Skype for Business (Lync & LCS), Data Center Virtualization, Orchestration and Automation, System Center Management, Networking, and Security.

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