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July 06, 2015
CybersecurityOffice 365

Don’t Let a Service Error Threaten Your Office 365 Data

As a user of Office 365, you know to protect your data from exterior threats such as hackers, rogue employees, etc. but what about protecting your data against the service itself? Despite Microsoft’s 99.99% uptime, the other .1% can inflict more damage to your data than you may realize. We’ll be discussing the issue of service errors; what it is, and how you can fully protect your data so service errors aren’t an issue.

Oh No! You Experience a Service Error

What is an Office 365 service error? Microsoft has spent a tremendous amount of time and resources to build up trust in the cloud. In fact, to get a clear picture of the strides Microsoft has gone through to build confidence in the Office 365 platform you only need to browse through the many case studies, customer scenarios, and service-level agreements outlined in the Office 365 Trust Center site. Microsoft touts a 99.99% uptime, and a continuous compliance model.

Even so, there are two major types of Office 365 service errors: service outages and erroneous account suspensions.

These are not “errors” but, more or less, activities within the scope of service operations that can impact data integrity. Service outages are pretty straightforward. Occasionally, some percentage of Office 365 customers will experience downtime to their services. If part of your Office 365 environment seems to be down, administrators can access their Office 365 Service Health Dashboard within the administration console. These outages are generally brief, but in some cases an outage can last for hours, even days.

A much more common form of service error is the account suspension. Microsoft reserves the right to suspend or terminate, without notice, any Office 365 account at any time, per the Terms of Service. If Microsoft suspects one of your Office 365 users is violating its terms, it can shut down that user account indefinitely.

It’s in Microsoft’s best interest to preemptively lock up accounts for suspicious activity while it investigates threats. There are documented cases of this process. It can take days to unlock accounts, as the burden of proof is on you to convince Microsoft your account isn’t secretly harboring criminal data.

What Microsoft Service Errors Can Cost You

The actual cost of Office 365 errors are, frankly, almost impossible to calculate because eventually, everyone gets their data back. The cost of data lost to Office 365 service errors is based on opportunities and productivity lost when your organization is denied access to your information. How do you put a dollar figure on not having access to your Office 365 inbox in the middle of a client negotiation, or the loss of an accounting spreadsheet in the midst of a tax audit?

How to Defend Against Office 365 Service Errors

Every user on your Office 365 environment should set up account recovery options, which allow you to list a mobile phone number and alternate email address, which Microsoft can contact to verify your identity. If Microsoft suspects your account or it has been hijacked, this is where it will send alerts and begin the process of returning control of your Office 365 account. Accounts that don’t have recovery options set up face much longer roads back from account suspension – those users should contact Office 365 support directly to reset access controls.

There is no administrative setting to defend against an Office 365 service outage. The only remedy for a lack of access to your Office 365 environment is a backup copy of your Office 365 data.

Though service error when using Office 365 is uncommon, the risk of being unprotected against it can be too great to bear. This is where utilizing a third party cloud-to-cloud backup solution is beneficial to the continuity of your company and prevent service error from ever being a true threat.


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