Give Microsoft credit: In a blog post, the software giant has publicly apologized for recent cloud and SaaS outages involving BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite). The outages impacted North American customers leveraging Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other Microsoft hosted applications. Feeling bruised, some channel partners are seeking alternative hosted Exchange and hosted SharePoint options. Here's the update.

As you may recall, Microsoft has suffered roughly three BPOS outages in recent weeks, raising questions about Microsoft's ability to host its own applications. Further complicating matters, Microsoft seems to be locked in a SaaS price war with Google Apps, so any outage is particularly troubling for the software giant.

On September 8, Microsoft's Morgan Cole posted a public apology to BPOS users. Within the apology Cole wrote:
"We aspire to deliver quality services, and in the last couple of weeks, we have fallen short of this aspiration. During this time, we experienced two network access issues in North America, and just yesterday, two brief periods of service degradation also affecting users served from North America. These incidents were unique to BPOS and not related to other Microsoft services.

I wanted to write here to, first, apologize to you, our customers, for any inconvenience these issues may have caused. We know how important these services are to the daily operation of your business, and we take our responsibility as your partner and service provider very seriously."
Cole also offered deeper details about what caused the outages and described Microsoft's commitment to delivering a "quality service experience every day."

Kudos to Cole for offering the public apology. Generally speaking, The VAR Guy believes Microsoft will ultimately improve BPOS service levels. Plus, our resident blogger thinks Microsoft's sister service, the Windows Azure cloud, is one of the most promising cloud platforms on the web.

The Big Question for Partners

But here's the real challenge: Even as Microsoft publicly apologizes to end-customers, channel partners also are suffering from the BPOS outages. Each time BPOS goes dark, VARs and MSPs that promote BPOS to end-customers have also had to apologize for the service outages.

In other words, Microsoft's BPOS outages potentially tarnish the reputations of VARs and MSPs that recommend the service to end customers.

In recent weeks, The VAR Guy has heard from six readers -- mostly small VARs serving SMBs -- that are mulling a move to alternative hosted Exchange providers including Apptix, Intermedia and Verio. Again: The VAR Guy believes Microsoft will eventually get BPOS right. But short-term, some channel partners are feeling bruised and looking for pain relief elsewhere.

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