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Annual Exercise Program


Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2015-02-02

Exchange 2010 (Aruna architecture), Blackberry, SharePoint, and Lync

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 can't be scheduled until after the purchased Office 365 Dedicated services are fully deployed. Subsequent exercises must be at least 12 months apart.

A typical service continuity failover exercise:

  • Simulates a catastrophic outage and validates incident management processes and disaster declaration criteria and processes.

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

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

Exchange 2010 (ANSI-D architecture) and Exchange 2013 (ANSI-D architecture)

The ANSI (Application and Network Seamlessly Integrated)-D architecture of Exchange Online Dedicated is an active model that provides fast, seamless, reliable service failover and recovery. Microsoft regularly tests the Exchange environment by performing failover tests to ensure service resiliency and reliability for customers. These tests don't require customer involvement.

The Office 365 Dedicated Service Continuity Team provides failover summary reports to your service delivery manager (SDM) within 10 business days following a routine failover in any one of the hosted datacenters. The data from the reports is retrieved from the logs of the most recent failover in your environment.

A typical service continuity failover test:

  • Simulates a catastrophic outage.

  • Executes failover of the Exchange service to another data center (or next available rack or pod).

  • Briefly impacts some or all user mailboxes in the impacted data center (depending on which racks or pods are failed over).

During failover or failback, users connected via Outlook Web App are redirected to the Outlook Web App front page and need to sign in again. Users connected via Outlook are temporarily disconnected and reconnected. They don't need to take any action. Mobile client users (Exchange ActiveSync or Blackberry Enterprise Server) experience no impact.

Table-top Exercises

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

  • Enables participants to review documented plan activities in a stress-free environment. This is usually done using a Lync meeting.

  • Effectively validates team roles and responsibilities during an emergency.

  • Identifies 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 before deployment is fully implemented. This prepares 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.

Failover Exercise Method

All scheduled exercises are subject to immediate cancellation or termination if Microsoft or other Office 365 Dedicated 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 at the earliest agreed availability.

Customer Responsibilities

  • Submit a written request to your SDM to schedule a service continuity exercise at least 90 days prior to the proposed exercise date. The request should identify a first and second choice for dates and time frame and define the service or services to be validated during the exercise. Microsoft recommends conducting the initial exercise within 10 working days after your migration to Office 365 services is complete.

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

  • 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.

Microsoft Responsibilities

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

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

  • Review the service continuity management exercise calendar to ensure that your migration and Office 365 Dedicated 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 and schedule the exercise accordingly.

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

  • 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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