Microsoft’s giant Aussie Office 365 migration has started


news Software and services giant Microsoft last week revealed it had started migrating the data of its Australian customers onto datacentres based locally, in a move that will affect customers in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.

The move was first mooted in December last year. At the time, Microsoft said it would deliver the local hosting options in Sydney and Melbourne to customers with the aim of providing customers with faster performance and geo-redundant backup features, as well as addressing the ongoing issue of data sovereignty.

Many Australian customers are comfortable with their data being hosted overseas, but many — especially in sensitive sectors such as government or financial services — are not, and may even face regulations prohibiting customer data from being stored in Microsoft’s servers in other countries.

In a post on its Australian Partner blog last week first reported by iTnews, Microsoft partner channel marketing manager Marnie Fulmer wrote that the move would start in September this year and continue in the following months. Microsoft will give customers a minimum of two weeks’ notice before their Office 365 service was moved to Australia, and cut-over would occur outside of business house — between 9PM and 6AM on a weekday, or any time on a weekend.

Office 365 customers who selected Australia, New Zealand or Fiji as their country during the initial sign-up process will be shifted to the Australian datacentre region.

The company’s SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business, Project Online, and Exchange Online Protection will run from the Australia datacentres, while initially, other services such as Yammer will run from other datacenters. Customers in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji will all have full access to these services. Access to these services together with other Office 365 services will continue for users without interruption.

Fulmer also added that new customers who selected the above mentioned countries as their country during the sign-up process would have their serviced automatically hosted from the Australia datacentre region.

I can’t help but view this as an extremely positive move. I’ve always campaigned for the big multinational tech companies to have Australian infrastructure, and the fact that Microsoft is not automatically migrating its Australian customers’ data to that infrastructure is a welcome sign that it understands the demands of the Australian market.

Of course, IT executives should not feel by default that their data is now completely protected from unfavourable law enforcement data retrieval exercises based in countries such as the US.

As many people are aware, Microsoft is currently facing a lawsuit filed by the US Government, in which the US is demanding that Microsoft hand over emails stored on its servers in Dublin, Ireland. The US Government’s contention is that it has jurisdiction in that country — and, presumably, in countries such as Australia — because Microsoft is a US corporation.

The lawsuit has the whole tech sector up in arms, and its outcome is very much still in doubt. In addition, I suspect it will not be the last such case we see. Data sovereignty is going to be a continuing issue for a long time to come.

Image credit: Microsoft


  1. I’m not convinced that Australia is a better or worse jurisdiction than the USA in which to store data. I guess it depends upon who you are who you think might be taking an interest in you.

    What would be better in this ever more connected world is for global cloud services companies to offer customers the choice. If its simply a matter of making the best choice at sign up then maybe that choice should be signposted for the consequences that it carries.

    • “What would be better in this ever more connected world is for global cloud services companies to offer customers the choice. If its simply a matter of making the best choice at sign up then maybe that choice should be signposted for the consequences that it carries.”


  2. My email migrated over this week. I could tell the difference instantly! I run multiple mailboxes with different organisations and the lag imposed by my Singapore-base Office 365 account was dreadful on all devices. I only persevered with it because I knew it was being brought on shore. The difference going from 110-150ms latency to 15-25ms is staggering.

    • The difference going from 110-150ms latency to 15-25ms is staggering.

      I can imagine, I was using a Non-ISP DNS service hosted in Sydney (I live in Melbourne) and when the company turned on its Melbourne Servers I switched over – the difference was only 10ms in latency however even that made a very very noticeable difference to application performance.

      I realise data hosting does have a few differences but a 90ms latency improvement is always going to be impressive and a very very useful improvement.

      Good job MS!

      • It’s interesting that the performance issue is so substantial — I hadn’t anticipated that, but I guess it makes sense. This really changes the way I think about Microsoft providing its Australian Azure datacentres. With the performance issues, it feels like it’s something MS would have had to do eventually anyway, regardless of the data sovereignty issues.

        I do wonder what performance is like from the Australian datacentres for those using them from New Zealand or Fiji …

  3. They absolutely had to do this for performance reasons. Most of the potential market for Azure and 365 remains untapped because of performance limitations. With local datacentres a big part of this problem is now resolved – for large enterprise with fibre links this completely solves the problem. For SMBs they just need access to NBN fibre. Oh wait…

    • The NBN fibre is actually not doing too badly at this point … FTTP has hit about a million premises — so there are patches of it everywhere.

      • Try that line with a business on two floors of a building in a commercial business district – “We can dramatically improve access to cloud services and overhaul your whole infrastructure, but you need to move your office. Or wait two to five years, because you’re not even on the rollout map yet. Oh and there’s no guarantee you’ll get fibre anyway, although it’s possible NBN Co will let you order FoD once the FTTN deployment has been completed in your area. Not that there is an example yet of such a product actually being delivered, but we’re hopeful they will make good on their promises. You know, like everyone in the country being on 25mbps by next year…” Strangely enough, such platitudes don’t go down so well – businesses need certainty and confidence in forward planning. The only thing certain about broadband for the next two to three years for a lot of Australians is what they already have available. They can’t even look at Azure or other IaaS products until they have adequate, highly reliable performance.

        I was talking to Microsoft sales about this just a few weeks ago, when they called to see what they could do to help us get more Azure and 365 sign ups. My answer was simply that without high speed, highly reliable Internet connectivity such as only available on NBN fibre (or enterprise fibre for those who can afford dedicated links) Azure was not a usable or sensible option. On-premises solutions, which should be being downsized to work more like a local cache than a complete solution in 2015, will remain the dominant solution for the majority of SMBs for the next three to four years. FTTN may allow for a hybrid approach, but IaaS will not be able to provide the requisite reliability guarantees on copper for full shifts to the cloud – it will remain a complementary product for anyone not on fibre.

  4. Interesting coincidence it’s happening at the same time as they’re pushing out 2016 and the major 365 update (obviously not just a coincidence) – customers will find a few differences in 365 as well as performance improvements after the changeover.

    • I do wonder whether it’s a coincidence or not … I feel like, given the performance issues mentioned above, that Microsoft really had to do the migration as soon as possible.

  5. Office 2016 release target window would have been set a year ago. Three months ago a precise date would have been set in stone. That gives the Australian division plenty of time to work towards a strategic target – it’s a good marketing play and worth the effort IMO. There’s no way this was an ‘accidental’ coincidence.

  6. How does one tell for each of the components, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business, Project Online, and Exchange Online.
    I can go to my Azure Active Directory and see that the Datacentre region is still ‘Asia, Europe, United States’, but does this mean much.

Comments are closed.