On Wednesday, July 15th, Microsoft acknowledged it was experiencing an outage for its Office 365 email service for customers in North America. Ironically this included many attendees of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in going on at that time in Orlando, FL.
Office 365 customers were unable to connect to Exchange Online, meaning they could not send or receive emails. The problem occurred after Microsoft updated Exchange Online. Microsoft undid the update and reported the incident resolved at 8:30 pm Central time, four hours after its onset.
Less than a year ago Microsoft experienced a two-day outage of Azure, its public cloud computing platform. The November 2014 failure resulted in a loss of access to Azure storage and other services for enterprise customers across North America and Europe. Azure also went dark in 2013 when a network issue knocked out services in the US.
How Can I Protect My Business From Cloud Outages?
As we like to say, not all clouds are the same. Your best protection from outages is to be in the right cloud. Any top tier cloud service provider has redundancy built into their cloud, from redundant servers within the primary datacenter, to one or more backup datacenters.
In the first case, if a server or cluster of servers go down, there are backup servers within the same datacenter that can be brought online. If the entire datacenter goes dark, services can be restored in secondary datacenters.
When you consider any cloud service that is business critical – i.e. if it’s down for more than a few minutes, your business will suffer – be sure to ask “what-if” questions like, “What happens if the server(s) go down? What happens if the datacenter goes down?”
In a top tier cloud service, when there is an outage there are options. The provider will weigh those options and work on the solution they believe will lead to the best outcome.
For example, if an online Exchange email service goes down because of an update, the provider might weigh options including reverting the update (which will take a few hours) or restoring from a backup image of the server before the update was applied (which will take a day).
For this hypothetical situation, let’s assume that failover to another datacenter won’t help because the update is applied there as well. So, the provider decides to revert the update, and fires the idiot who applied the update in the middle of a business day.
I Love My Office 365 Email, But I Can’t Afford To Be Down At All. What Can I Do?
MyITpros offers an affordable email continuity service that allows users to access their email and continue with business even during an outage. It’s an option available with our Email Security Service, and here’s how it works.
Before any email to your domain hits your email server, whether that server is in your office or in the cloud, it filters through anti-spam servers in a separate datacenter. With the Email Continuity Service working, those emails are “spooled” (a copy is held in a 60 day rolling archive). If your email server is down, you can read and reply to these emails through an online portal.
The many benefits of cloud computing far outweigh the risks of downtime, and those risks are becoming smaller as cloud technology advances. The threat of permanent data loss is far lower today than it was just a few years ago, when many of our clients had their own Exchange servers in a closet in their office.
Just be sure you’re in the right cloud for your needs. If you need help deciding which cloud services make the most sense for your business, contact us.
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