I have a particular soft spot for Microsoft’s Office365, I admit it. Ever since my two former companies in Europe (that developed semantic technologies on various platforms, including an open source Apache-based service and Apple iOS) started using SharePoint, I felt that this has a great platform with great potential. When I set up business in the USA in 2010, it felt natural therefore to start using the modest offering at the time, Office Live for Small Business, and when that integrated with SharePoint and other online services to become Office365, it was irresistible – and at an insane price point of $6 per month.
A key differentiator for me was the notable absence of advertising and monetization of my – and my company’s – data. I have just never felt comfortable with offerings like GoogleDocs. If they are scanning every single byte of data coming in and going out of their services, how can I be really certain that some commercially sensitive information doesn’t find its way into the wrong hands? I’d much rather pay a few dollars a month for a service that does none of that.
Despite that, and despite the assurances which I have always taken in good faith, there is always a niggling doubt in the back of my mind: I have assurances in my contract with them but what if Microsoft is analyzing my data for their own monetary gain? How would I know? What assurances do I have?
When so much of one professional life is centred around the development of international standards – and cajouling and persuading people and companies that they really are important, it is nice for once to be in the position of a consumer (and active in the fight for online trust and greater privacy) and feel reassured that a service you are using has been independently verified. And not by just anyone – but by the formidable British Standards Institute, whose track record on standards compliance and certification across a range of domains is world-renowned.
Now, suitably empowered and feeling more in control of my own data – it’s back to work, with Office365, naturally! 😉