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Service Continuity Management


Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2014-01-21

Service continuity management focuses on the ability to restore Microsoft Office 365 services to your organization in a predetermined timeframe during a catastrophic service outage. Achieving restored services requires preparation, planning, technical implementation, and conducting exercises to validate the incident management and service restoration solution and processes.

This service description presents the common approach to service continuity management that Microsoft uses with customers subscribed to Office 365 for enterprises dedicated plans and ITAR-support plans. The information specifically applies to the following Office 365 services:

In addition, this service description defines Microsoft and customer responsibilities that relate to service continuity management for the purpose of compliance and auditing.

Office 365 service offerings are delivered by highly resilient systems that help to ensure high levels of service. Services are hosted in Microsoft enterprise-level data centers that utilize the same world-class operational practices as the Microsoft corporate line-of-business applications. Office 365 solutions also take advantage of the extensive experience that Microsoft has in hosting services, and its close ties to the Microsoft product groups and support services, to create a service that meets the high standards that your organization demands.

To help maintain high service levels, service continuity provisions are built in to Office 365 system design. These provisions enable Office 365 services to recover quickly from unexpected events such as hardware or application failure, data corruption, or other incidents that affect users. The service continuity provisions presented in this service description specifically apply to when a catastrophic event occurs, such as a natural disaster or fire within a Microsoft data center that renders the entire data center inoperable.

The following terms are commonly used in service continuity management to evaluate disaster recovery solutions:

  • Recovery time objective (RTO). This term refers to the acceptable amount of time the service can be down before being brought back online

  • Recovery point objective (RPO). This term refers to the acceptable amount of data loss at the conclusion of the data recovery process.

  • Failover. This term refers to relocation of an overloaded or failed resource—such as a server, a disk drive, a network, or a data center—to its redundant, or backup, component.

The RTO and RPO parameters for Office 365 Dedicated plans services are provided in the table below.


Office 365 Service



Exchange Online

2 hours or less

45 minutes or less

SharePoint Online

4 hours or less

2 hours or less

Lync Online

2 hours or less

45 minutes or less

An Office 365 service outage may be due to hardware or software failure in the Microsoft data center, a faulty network connection between your environment and Microsoft, or a major data center challenge such as fire, flood, or regional catastrophe. Most service outage incidents can be addressed using Microsoft technology and process solutions, and are resolved within a short period. However, some incidents are more serious and have the potential for lengthy outages and service interruption. To establish the seriousness of an incident, Microsoft uses the severity scale shown in the figure below. The scale classifies outage incidents as minor, critical, or catastrophic events based on the impact to your organization.


To learn about how Microsoft manages incidents that impact availability of Office 365 services, see the Support service description for Office 365 Dedicated plans.

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