Microsoft Online Services

One of my biggest worries about running my fathers business’s Sharepoint (WSS) and Exchange (Packaged with SBS 2003) is the element of Backing up and Expandability. I always fear the day that i would get the dreaded phonecall (you know the one that all Administrators dread) in which email is offline or the sharepoint is offline / missing files. I have been lucky to date in that ive only had one failure in which i was able to use a backup to restore everything.

The business went from 100% paper estimation / quotation to about 80% Electronic / 20% paper around 2000, at this stage it was a pc with Windows ME (yeh we unfortunately went down this route) and a copy of Office 2000 + a Canon Bubblejet printer. At that time it was really great, estimates could be typed up, printed and recalled later, there was so many new business processes that came about with the addition of the simple addition of a computer + office that it helped the business to scale somewhat. It was 2002 when we got ISDN in the business and this is when we utilised a small part of the internet, mainly email even at that the volume of email was very low because of the area of business we are involved in. Faxing was a big thing, so we utilised the software that came with the ISDN modem (RVSCOM) to fax estimates and quotes mainly to trade customers.

We got more computers to do even more things, the business expanded as expected and the old paper way of doing lookups and referencing for our business went and in came Specialised software for mixing paints etc… We didn’t have to ring up the paint supplier anymore to get mixtures that were too new to be on the outdated Micro Fiche system we had.

I soon realised around 2004/2005 that we had such a wealth of data that we had to be able to back it up and recover it in the event of failure, at the time we purchased a Dell PowerEdge SC420 it came with SBS2003 we also got a DDS tape drive which was big money back then. By then we had Broadband, email was in greater use (although we still didnt use exchange that came with SBS) and we now had Sage involved in the mix. There was greater and greater amounts of data being created and filed.

In 2008 we started using exchange (as we got our own domain) and in the same year we started using sharepoint. File shares etc had been migrated into sharepoint, the reason was simple; At this time we had moved premises and there wasn’t the facility to host any IT equipment at the time, so VPN had to be setup so we could get email to the business in our new premises.

Late 2009 i implemented a new system based on Infopath + sharepoint to create a job card system, this was great and worked really well for us, this more or less finalised / completed our move to 100% electronic processes. Email and sharepoint are a core part of the business and allows us to work in multiple locations and use the same data.

Recently here in 2010 ive had to look at replacing the server (which was showing its age), the cost of replacing was in and about €2500 after hardware and SBS 2008 was purchased; Its a single cost that i wasnt really going to get into, because i knew that i would need a new backup device and software.

I was stuck, i had learned recently about Microsoft Online Services, a great set of tools and services from Microsoft that included Sharepoint and Exchange for a really low cost (€42 per month for Exchange + Sharepoint with 5 users), the thing i was always afraid of when looking at this was the migration… Because i know its always a pain to migrate from one system to another.

It was easier than i thought, i downloaded the Exchange Migration app, pointed it at the mailboxes and migrated… simple, even put forwarders on the accounts in active directory. The client pc’s got loaded with a Application that does a sort of single signon to the MSO services:


It configures outlook or whatever service you have with MSO painlessly. I think its a great service and i would highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling the pinch of running servers etc..

Sharepoint was the only pain to migrate, but using Sharepoint Designer 2007 i was able to copy all the documents etc from one server to another.

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