For anyone thinking about entrusting their IT infrastructure and business applications to the cloud, the questions of security is going to be paramount. Of course you need to be completely satisfied that the new cloud set-up is resilient and secure, but it's not just about productivity: You need to be assured that compliance with data protection is addressed, that traceability is seamless and that there are disaster recovery processes in place. Microsoft's global network of high-spec data centres are being marketed as conforming to stringent international standards to address all of these criteria − and more.

Microsoft cloud customers in Europe are served by facilities in Dublin and Amsterdam. The Dublin site, which opened in 2009, is Microsoft's largest data centre outside the United States. It spans 19 acres, and is the company's flagship centre for public cloud services. The state-of-the-art facility includes a cooling system that harnesses Ireland's naturally cold air, a comprehensive system of secondary electricity sources, and two fibre-optic networks, so that internet connectivity will not be interrupted if one fails. If there was a major catastrophe in Dublin, the entire operation would switch to Amsterdam.

And even the people who are security-cleared must gain formal permission for each visit they make to the data centres. The company's attention to resilience and security runs deep, going right to the heart of the their cloud-based technology suite.

Microsoft Office 365 delivers the power of cloud productivity to businesses of all sizes. The Office 365 service combines the familiar Microsoft Office desktop suite with online versions of next-generation communications and collaboration services: Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online. Office 365 services are easy to administer and simple to use, with the robust security, reliability, and control you need to run your business.

Microsoft Office 365 is licensed on a flexible, per-user per-month subscription plan with predictable annual costs, enabling you to scale the services when it makes sense. Microsoft manages the IT software and you control the user access rights. Professionals and small businesses without complex IT needs, are covered through Microsoft's online community support and self-service help resources. For businesses with more complex IT needs, there is a 24/7 phone and online access to IT customer support.

The Office 365 cloud service is available in different packages according to the size of company. Small businesses may choose to run all of their office productivity tools online, larger companies have the option to mix and match so that they retain some licences internally for offline work, or so that more sensitive email traffic is managed internally, within the company firewall. Alongside standard Microsoft business productivity tools, companies can also access Microsoft Lync Online, a unified communications application combining phone calls, instant messaging, and audio, video and web conferencing over an internet connection, allowing users to stay in touch more dynamically as they move between locations. Office applications can run locally on your PC and can be downloaded, updated and licensed directly from the cloud.

Where organisations are more ambitious and want to develop and run new applications of their own in the cloud, they can make use of Windows Azure, the company's web-based cloud platform for building, testing and running new cloud-based solutions - software that can be integrated with the Microsoft Office 365 suite. The Windows Azure cloud platform is hosted at both of the company's European data centres.