What (Really) Happens When Office 365 is Down

Craig Pollack | Jun 24, 2014

office-365-is-downHow is it, arguably, the world’s most impactful technology company can’t provide the service they’re betting the company on? Right now Microsoft’s Office 365 is down and there’s literally nothing we can do about – other than wait. This isn’t how “the cloud” is described in all the pretty brochures.  Yet, this is what we continue to see.

Here we are, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and SMB VAR Champion (one of a select handful) having to respond to our clients about why they’re down. Yet, with little or no communication from the company about the situation. We’re stuck in this holding pattern at their mercy. I like Microsoft’s statement:

“Current Status: Engineers have identified an issue in which a portion of capacity that facilitates connectivity to Exchange Online services has entered into a degraded state.”

“Entered into a degraded state.” Really? This is the best they can come up with?

This is one of the problems of hitching your wagon to a company for something so integral to how you operate your business on a day to day basis. Once in a while you’re going to get burned. And while the cloud is all the rage these days, today’s outage is just the latest example of how the landscape is changing.

When we have the initial discussion with clients about on-premise vs cloud, everyone is so accepting of the concept of downtime. “It won’t happen” or “if it does happen, it really won’t impact our business.

We’ll be able to work around it.” Yet when it does happen (like today), we’re flooded with calls complaining about how impactful it really is! When I say the landscape is changing, it means unless you’re running your own servers we’re all being forced to come to grips with a new computing paradigm. One where downtime is something that we can’t prevent, we can’t control, and could come at the most inopportune time.

For technologists who are so used to having control of things (ie: we’re the ones who setup, maintain, and support the underlying technologies), it’s so hard to NOT have control of the situation. For us, this is the hardest thing to let go of. It’s not about where the information resides (on-prem vs. in the cloud). It’s not so much about security (although this is always a concern).

It’s certainly not about us losing employment.  When you get right down to it, it’s really about the service we can provide to our clients and the technology they rely upon. And when we can’t control things from end to end, it takes us off our game. Like today.

Certainly, the fact that Office 365 is down is impactful. The reality is, regardless of how much anyone tries to mitigate them, systems will always have failure points.  As we become more and more dependent on hosted solutions, we also are being forced to become more and more tolerant of service interruptions.

But, the (lack of) communication about what’s going on and when it will be back up is really THE most impactful issue at the moment. And this is what’s impacting everyone’s perception of the situation. And this IS something Microsoft can control.

From where we sit - Microsoft, and every hosting company for that matter, is going to have to improve their communications if they want to stay in the game of being the (email) service provider of choice.


Craig Pollack

Craig Pollack

Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology as efficiently and effectively as possible. With over 25 years of experience building the preeminent IT Service Provider in the Southern California area, Craig is one of the area’s leading authorities on how small to mid-sized businesses can best secure and leverage their technology to achieve their business objectives.