Microsoft has created status dashboards for the three data centers that power its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), a set of hosted communication and collaboration applications for workplaces.
The goal is to make it easier for BPOS customers to check on the performance and availability of the suite's applications, particularly in cases when Microsoft is experiencing problems in its data centers.
"Today, we're taking a step forward in delivering more timely, accurate and targeted information about BPOS service status by introducing the Microsoft Online Service Health Dashboard," wrote Microsoft official Morgan Cole in a blog.
The announcement, made Tuesday, comes about three weeks after Microsoft apologized for several outages that affected access to BPOS applications in late August and early September.
The BPOS Standard suite, hosted by Microsoft and sold with partners, includes Exchange Online, Office SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting, all of which come with a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.
With this move, Microsoft follows other vendors of cloud-hosted enterprise software, like Salesforce.com and Google, which have launched status dashboards for their applications.
However, a difference is that both the Salesforce.com Trust dashboard and the Google Apps Status dashboard are publicly available to anyone online, while the three Microsoft BPOS dashboards -- for the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) -- can only be accessed by customers with log-in credentials.
In his blog post, Cole explained that a big motivation for Microsoft to launch these BPOS dashboards was a consensus among customers on the desire to have more data about the availability of these hosted applications.
Indeed, this seems to be a common theme among IT officials whose companies adopt software that is hosted by the vendors, because when these applications become unavailable due to problems in the vendors' data centers, IT officials are left to field complaints from their end users while having little to no power in remedying the situation.
Knowing the severity, scope and nature of the service interruption, along with estimates on when the issue might be fixed, allows IT administrators to relay that information to their end users and keep them updated on the progress to fix the outage.
While the issue of performance and availability remains a concern among customers of vendor-hosted applications, this model of software provisioning continues to gain in popularity. Its benefits include freeing IT departments from system maintenance and reducing organizations' hardware expenses.