Microsoft’s Hailstorm: A Good Idea?

Many people simple don’t trust Microsoft. After all, the government has spent countless dollars trying to break up the software giant and there are many, many Web sites and forums that are dedicated to the sole purpose of bashing Microsoft. With such extreme hatred directed toward Microsoft, one would have to wonder why Microsoft would even consider releasing Hailstorm, a new subscription-based storage solution.

To date, Microsoft has based most of its profits on one time software sales. For example, if you buy a copy of Windows today, there’s no reason to buy another copy tomorrow, unless you get a new computer. Microsoft’s new idea is to get away from this particular business model and move into a model in which consumers lease applications and services on a monthly basis.

Enter Hailstorm. The idea behind Hailstorm is that for a subscription fee, Microsoft will store all of your data for you. Microsoft has been marketing hailstorm as a way to make critical documents and information such as credit card numbers and calendar schedules available to users from anywhere in the world on a variety of devices. The idea is that you could access a spreadsheet for example, from a computer, a PDA, a cell phone, or from a variety of other devices.

As convenient as this may sound, there are some big issues that Microsoft must contend with before they can even hope that Hailstorm might become successful. As I alluded to earlier, the first issue is trust. In a world in which Microsoft is constantly coming under fire for unfair businesses practices, is it really prudent to trust them with your confidential data? I’m not saying that in the middle of the night Bill is going to look up your credit card number and go on an Internet shopping spree. What I am saying is that how do we really know that Microsoft won’t be scanning documents for information that it could use for its own financial gain or for information to use against its competitors?

The other trust issue at work here is reliability of service. As you may recall, back in July, Microsoft had an MSN Messenger outage in which 10 million people couldn’t use MSN Messenger for about six days.

MSN Messenger was originally intended to be a major hailstorm component. Although a MSN Messenger failure wouldn’t likely bring Hailstorm to a complete halt, it does raise the question of what would happen to the world’s data if Hailstorm did completely fail for a week or so?

Since the start of all of the controversy, Microsoft has attempted to do some damage control by announcing that Hailstorm data would initially be maintained by Microsoft, but may eventually be outsourced to a third party. Even so, there are still many questions that need to be answered.

This column originally appeared on’s Network Storage Forum.