Office 365: A customer-centric service experience

A teacher would never be satisfied with her performance if she discovered that the entire back row of her classroom was unable to hear her lecture. In the world of cloud services for business, we see things the same way. With Office 365, every user counts!

Google has a different approach. It starts counting downtime only after at least 5 percent of users are affected. Imagine if 100 of your 2,000 users had no access to email. Would you, as an IT professional, be satisfied with your performance? Would your business hold you accountable for your performance? The answers to these questions are clear. Calculating downtime only after 5 percent of your users cannot access email, as Google does, makes it more difficult for you to assess impact to user productivity. Google’s approach doesn’t help your business with meaningful performance metrics.

With Office 365, every affected customer and every service counts when we calculate downtime. Downtime means the total minutes in a month during which service is unavailable, excluding scheduled downtime. For services like email, there is no scheduled downtime, an experience that our many Exchange Server customers have long been accustomed to-system maintenance while they continue to be productive in their Outlook inboxes.

In addition to the way it calculates downtime, Google also  combines consumer and commercial service availability when reporting the availability of Gmail. This means if you are considering Google Apps for Business, you cannot get accurate information regarding the availability of the commercial service that you need.  On the other hand, Microsoft’s approach to calculating downtime, which includes every user minute, helps you understand whether your users’ productivity is being impacted by downtime of email.

Google takes a “use at your risk” approach around Google+, Hangout and Google Voice. These services are not part of Google Apps for Business and are excluded from the SLA. Excluding these services from the SLA while promoting them as part of the business experience further underscores how Google simply doesn’t understand enterprise requirements. By contrast, Microsoft’s financially backed SLA is not merely a numbers game; it’s an agreement to provide enterprise-class service. This agreement is scoped to all services that are included within Office 365. Businesses expect that of an enterprise-class service.

Working proactively to earn your trust

Along with the topic of service continuity and the promise of enterprise-class service, data privacy and security always come up in conversations. You have told us, particularly those of you in regions with data residency rules, that you must feel confident and in control of your data. As more of you are considering cloud services, we have stepped up our efforts around the Office 365 Trust Center to address these questions broadly. Being transparent with you is core to how we run the Office 365 business.

Office 365 Trust Center

Figure 1: Office 365 Trust Center


Microsoft is consistently and proactively working toward earning your trust by focusing on what you have told us matters most-privacy, transparency, independent verification, security, and service continuity. We understand it’s your data-you own it and should direct how it’s handled. Office 365 customers know who can access their data and for what purposes. IT administrators can stay updated on changes to the data center as well as information regarding security, privacy, and audits. Customer data is always made available across multiple, redundant datacenters, spread across regions and optimized for user performance and availability. The region used to select those multiple datacenters is based on customer requirements, which in addition to performance, is also critical for customers in regions that have data residency rules.

Transparency requires consistent communications. In addition to communicating via email and RSS feeds, the Office 365 Service Health Dashboard is a key mechanism that gives customers visibility into the service.

This dashboard is the window into the health of the service for your specific organization. As an Office 365 customer, you get a detailed view into the availability of services, tailored to your business, and not a peanut butter approach showing the availability of services the world over. For example, customers can view the current status of all their services and their components, view upcoming planned maintenances, and see when they need to renew licenses for their Office subscription. Here is an example of the dashboard from my Office 365 account that I use for demos. You have told us that you require this level of detail about your organization to be in control of the service you provide to your users, and we have responded by delivering the capabilities that meet the needs of your business.

Office 365 Service Health Dashboard


Figure 2: Office 365 Service Health Dashboard

Striving for 100 percent availability

Over 56 percent of European decision-makers estimate that the cloud will be a priority in 2013 and 2014[1] and cloud budgets will reach 30 percent of the overall IT budget. Despite the momentum, customers rightfully want to know if the service is reliable. Will their data be secure? Can they trust that privacy will maintained?

We strive for 100 percent availability of the Office 365 service. The security of your data is a constant and primary engineering focus. Our goal is to be transparent when incidents happen and give you the information you need in a timely manner. If you’re impacted by a service incident, you’ll be able to see relevant information about the incident via your dashboard. We provide detailed incident reports that include the root cause and remediation plan to help address your concerns. We understand that we must re-earn your trust every day.

Many of you have told us that you will not wake up one day and decide to do everything in the cloud. Instead, it is a journey as you evaluate the risks and rewards of adopting cloud service for your business. Office 365 was designed for the cloud from the ground up to meet your business’ needs. We are drawing on our years of experience working with enterprises, maturity around technology, and running infrastructure at scale to help you make this journey to the cloud successfully.

[1] Challenges & Opportunities for IT partners when transforming or creating a business in the cloud. compuBase consulting. 2012. p. 77.