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Annual Exercise Program


Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2014-01-21

At your request, Microsoft facilitates a service continuity exercise, a best practice that is advocated by business continuity specialists. The purpose of the service continuity exercise, also called a failover exercise, is to validate the incident management and service restoration solution and processes. The exercise also provides Microsoft and your organization's management with all documentation regarding the results of the exercise.

Microsoft provides for a maximum of one failover exercise for each contract year. The first exercise cannot be scheduled until after the purchased Office 365 services are fully deployed. Subsequent exercises must be at least 12 months apart.

A typical service continuity failover exercise will:

  • Simulate a catastrophic outage and validate incident management processes and disaster declaration criteria and processes.

  • Execute failover to the secondary data center as appropriate for each Office 365 service.

  • Impact a small number of selected user mailboxes, BlackBerry user accounts, and/or SharePoint site collections.

In addition to conducting failover exercises, Microsoft offers a table-top exercise. A typical table-top exercise will:

  • Enable participants—either in person or online via a Lync meeting—to review documented plan activities in a stress-free environment.

  • Effectively validate team roles and responsibilities during an emergency.

  • Identify needs for training, documentation errors, missing information, and inconsistencies across business continuity plans for both Microsoft and your organization.

Microsoft recommends that you consider conducting a table-top exercise prior to your first failover exercise. This initial table-top exercise can be conducted prior to completion of deployment and prepare your teams for their first full failover exercise after service deployment is complete.

The three phases of a failover exercise—Preparation, Validation, and Resolution—are shown in the following figure.


All scheduled exercises will be subject to immediate cancellation or termination if Microsoft or other Office 365 subscribers declare a disaster and request use of the resources that have been designated for the exercise. Exercises may also be postponed if there are active catastrophic (Severity 1) or critical (Severity A) issues in your environment 24 hours prior to the exercise.

In the event an exercise is cancelled, reasonable effort will be made to reschedule it.

Customer Responsibilities

  • Provide a project manager to work with the Microsoft service continuity project manager during the exercise planning, execution, and post-exercise phases.

  • Participate in the pre-exercise, exercise, and post-exercise phases.

  • Schedule at least one service continuity exercise. Microsoft recommends conducting the initial exercise within 10 working days after your migration to Office 365 services is complete.

  • Submit a written request to the SDM to schedule an exercise at least 90 days prior to the proposed exercise date. The request should identify a first and second choice for dates and timeframe, and define the service or services to be validated during the exercise.

  • Provide written cancellation notice within 30 days of the scheduled exercise if the exercise is no longer required.

Microsoft Responsibilities

  • Provide an Office 365 service continuity project manager to work with your project manager during the exercise planning, execution and post-exercise phases.

  • Participate in the pre-exercise, exercise, and post-exercise phases.

  • Respond in writing to your request for an exercise within 10 business days, with confirmation on resource availability and projected start date.

  • Review the service continuity management exercise calendar to ensure that your migration and Office 365 provisioning are completed prior to scheduling an exercise, and to ensure that the requested exercise date does not conflict with other migration, deployment, upgrade, or maintenance work being managed by Microsoft teams.

  • Determine the availability of the resources necessary for the exercise.

  • Document exercise results via an executive summary and then work with your teams to close any issues encountered during the exercise.

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