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Service Continuity Management


Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2015-01-26

Service continuity management focuses on the ability to restore Office 365 services to your organization in a predetermined time frame 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 the dedicated and ITAR-support plans of Office 365 for enterprises and provides Microsoft and customer compliance and auditing responsibilities relating to service continuity management. All information provided specifically applies to the following services:

  • References made in this service description to Office 365 for enterprises "dedicated" offerings also apply the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR-support) service releases unless otherwise indicated.

  • This content applies to all legacy service releases of Office 365 Dedicated services and the Office 365 Enterprise “Dedicated vNext” service releases. An Office 365 “Dedicated vNext” release is an offering on a common service fabric capable of supporting either a multi-tenant or dedicated implementation of a service. Contact your Microsoft account team for additional information.

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 the Office 365 service offerings. This content includes management of catastrophic outage events, like a natural disaster or fire within a Microsoft data center that renders the entire data center inoperable, preparation to address outages, and the exercising of the service continuity procedures.

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 Dedicated Service



*Exchange Online

1 hour or less

Nearly instantaneous

**Exchange Online

2 hours or less

45 minutes or less

***SharePoint Online

2 hours or less

45 minutes or less

****Lync Online

2 hours or less

45 minutes or less

*Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2010 on ANSI (Application and Network Seamlessly Integrated)-D architecture

**Exchange 2010 on Aruna architecture

***SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013

****Lync 2010 and Lync 2013

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 high availability 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.

Severity Scale

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

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