If you were following tech news in  2020—or if your company was  back in the office and you’re close enough to hear your employees scream—you know Microsoft Office 365 suffered several significant outages towards the end of the year. More accurately, millions of Office 365’s customers suffered. 

These incidents serve as a reminder that effective cloud backup and DR requires more than simply copying your data and sending those copies to the cloud. It also means making sure you’re backing up the data your staff is generating and storing in cloud services like Office 365. (As Microsoft’s agreement makes clear, Office 365 data backup is the customer’s responsibility.) Effective cloud backup and DR also means developing a process for recovering that backed-up data on a moment’s notice—so that Microsoft’s data downtime doesn’t translate into business downtime for you.

Let’s review a couple of the 2020 Office 365 outages. Then we’ll discuss what they signal for your business.

September 28 worldwide outage keeps customers from logging in

Apps affected: Teams, Outlook

Outage time: 6 hours

As The Guardian reported, this incident affected users all over the world for more than six hours. Microsoft explained the issue originated with an authentication problem that prevented Office 365 customers from accessing their cloud accounts. Users lucky enough to be logged in when the authentication issue began were able to continue using their 365 services.

October 7 worldwide outage keeps US customers from logging in

Apps affected: Teams, Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Admin portal

Outage time: 4 hours for Teams, SharePoint, Exchange, OneDrive; 7 hours for Outlook, Admin

Just a week after the September 28 outage, The Register reported, Microsoft warned its US-based customers that an infrastructure update created an issue that would prevent users from accessing Office 365 services including Outlook, Exchange Online, and OneDrive. The issue was resolved 4 hours later for most of the affected services, but it took another 3 hours to fix the problems with Outlook and the Admin center. 

You need a disaster recovery plan for your SaaS services, too

These outages highlight an often-forgotten element of business data backup and disaster recovery. When we think of DR, we typically envision problems at our own company’s location: an office flood, a local blackout, an accidentally deleted mission-critical folder. Concerns like these are a major factor in businesses’ decisions to back up their data to the cloud in the first place.

But what happens when the data disaster doesn’t originate at your location, but instead within the infrastructure of your SaaS provider, such as Office 365? You need a disaster recovery strategy for that possibility as well.

During the 2020 Office 365 outages, organizations around the world had to go nearly an entire business day without access to mission-critical data and services. If your business found itself locked out of the data and systems your staff needs most to operate, how long could you go before that downtime created serious problems in terms of revenue, customer relationships, reputation, even regulatory compliance?

To learn more about the risks of hosting data in Office 365, and to how to mitigate those risks, download the eBook: “Modern Office 365 Data Protection Challenges.

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