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Service Health and Continuity

Office 365
 

Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2015-02-26

Microsoft Office 365 admins can view the status of services and find out when maintenance is scheduled. Service health information is available at any time by signing into Office 365.

The Service health section of Office 365 shows the current status of the service, details about service disruptions and outages, and lists planned maintenance times. For more information, see View the status of your services.

A service incident is an event that affects the delivery of a service. Service incidents occur when a portion of the service infrastructure becomes unresponsive and unavailable to customers. Service outages may be caused by hardware or software failure in the Microsoft data center, a faulty network connection between the customer and Microsoft, or a major data center challenge such as fire, flood, or regional catastrophe. Most service incidents can be addressed using Microsoft technology and process solutions and are resolved within a short time. However, some service incidents are more serious and can lead to longer term outages.

There are two types of service incidents:

  • Planned maintenance events: Planned maintenance is regular Microsoft-initiated service updates to the infrastructure and software applications deployed. Planned maintenance notifications inform customers about service infrastructure work that might affect the functionality some Office 365 services. Customers are notified no later than five days in advance of all planned maintenance through the Service Health Dashboard on the Office 365 Admin Portal. Microsoft typically plans maintenance for times when service usage is historically at its lowest—Fridays and Saturdays based on regional time zones:

    • The Americas: 21:00 to 03:00 Pacific Time (GMT-8)

    • Europe, the Middle East, and Africa: 20:00 to 02:00 (GMT)

    • Asia Pacific and Greater China: Saturdays 1:00 am to Sundays 4:00 pm (GMT+8)

  • Unplanned downtime: Unplanned service incidents occur when one of the services in the Office 365 suite is unavailable or unresponsive.

When a service incident occurs, Microsoft recognizes that timely, targeted, and accurate communications are critical for customers. Microsoft notifies Office 365 administrators by updating the tenant specific Service Health Dashboard (SHD) on the Office 365 Admin Portal. Service incident updates are provided on an hourly cadence and if a different cadence is required, it will be stated in the SHD communication posting.

The Admin App for Office 365 tenant administrators provides the ability to connect with their organizations’ Office 365 service status on the go. Office 365 tenant administrators will have the ability to view service health information and maintenance status updates from their mobile device. For more information, visit the Admin App FAQ.

Microsoft System Center is an integrated management platform that helps you manage data center, client devices, and hybrid cloud IT environments. Office 365 administrators who use System Center now have the option to import the Office 365 Management Pack, which enables you to view all service communications within Operations Manager in System Center. Using this tool gives you access to the status of your subscribed services, active and resolved service incidents, and your Message Center communications. For more information, visit the New Office 365 admin tools blog post.

The Office 365 Service Communications API enables you to access Office 365 service communications the way you want. With this new admin tool, you now have the ability to create or connect your tools to Office 365 service communications, potentially simplifying how you monitor your environment. The Service Communications API enables you to monitor the following in your environment:

  • Real-time service health

  • Message Center communications

  • Planned maintenance notifications

For more information, visit the New Office 365 admin tools blog post.

Microsoft’s commitment to continuous improvement involves analysis for customer-impacting service incidents to minimize future recurrence.

For customer impacting service incidents in which there was impact across a limited portion of customers, Microsoft will provide a Post Incident Review (PIR) within five business days of incident resolution. This detailed PIR report includes:

  • User experience and customer impact

  • Incident start and end date/time

  • Root cause analysis and actions being taken for continuous improvement

With service incidents that have broader, noticeable impact across a large number of organizations, a preliminary enhanced PIR will be delivered within 48 hours of incident resolution followed by a final PIR within five business days. In addition to the details already contained in a standard PIR, a preliminary enhanced PIR contains:

  • A more detailed timeline of impact and resolution measures

  • Expanded root cause analysis

For service incidents in which minimal customer impact is determined, the Service Health Dashboard will provide an incident closure summary including a preliminary root cause statement and information detailing next steps. For this category of service incident, a PIR will not be generated.

Administrators can request a PIR using a standard online service request submission through the Office 365 portal or a phone call to Microsoft Customer Service and Support. Requests must be made within five business days after incident resolution.

Microsoft Office 365 offerings are delivered by highly resilient systems that help to maintain peak service performance. Service continuity provisions are part of the Office 365 system design. These provisions enable Office 365 to recover quickly from unexpected events such as hardware or application failure, data corruption, or other incidents that affect users. These service continuity solutions also apply during catastrophic outages (for example, natural disasters or an incident within a Microsoft data center that renders the entire data center inoperable).

Note that after recovery from catastrophic outages there may be a period of time before full data center redundancy is restored for the service. For example, if Data Center 1 fails, services are restored by resources in Data Center 2. However, there may be a period of time until services in Data Center 2 have service continuity support either by restored resources in Data Center 1, or new resources in Data Center 3. The Office 365 Service Level Agreement (SLA) applies during this time.

Microsoft ensures that customer data is available whenever it is needed through the following features:

  • Data storage and redundancy: Customer data is stored in a redundant environment with robust data protection capabilities to enable availability, business continuity, and rapid recovery. Multiple levels of data redundancy are implemented, ranging from redundant disks to guard against local disk failure to continuous, full data replication to a geographically diverse data center.

  • Data monitoring: Office 365 services maintain high levels of performance by:

    • Monitoring databases:

      • Blocked processes

      • Packet loss

      • Queued processes

      • Query latency

  • Completing preventative maintenance: Preventative maintenance includes database consistency checks, periodic data compression, and error log reviews.

The Office 365 development and operations teams are complemented by a dedicated Office 365 support organization, which plays an important role in providing customers with business continuity. Support staff has a deep knowledge of the service and its associated applications as well as direct access to Microsoft experts in architecture, development, and testing.

The support organization closely aligns with operations and product development, offers fast resolution times and provides a channel for customers’ voices to be heard. Feedback from customers provides input to the planning, development, and operations processes.

  • Online issue tracking: Customers need to know that their issues are being addressed, and they need to be able to track timely resolution. The Office 365 portal provides a single web-based interface for support. Customers can use the portal to add and monitor service requests and receive feedback from Microsoft support teams.

  • Self-help, backed by continuous staff support: Office 365 offers a wide range of self-help resources and tools that can help customers to resolve service-related issues without requiring Microsoft support.

Before customers enter service requests, they can access knowledge base articles and FAQs that provide immediate help with the most common problems. These resources are continually updated with the latest information, which helps avoid delays by providing solutions to known issues. However, when an issue arises that needs the help of a support professional; staff members are available for immediate assistance by telephone and through the administration portal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information about support, see the Support topic.

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