Everyone who works in the information technology field is familiar with what are generally called service outages.
It could be a file server, or an application exception or a misbehaving database or any one of at least a million different things people depend upon to accomplish their work and communicate; if the magic black box behind the curtain is slow, or, worse yet, offline, a quiet day can become hectic as frustrations mount.
When outages occur with cloud services such as Office 365, the IT professional is placed in an interesting situation.
Consider the Office 365 Service Overview page:
As you can see, Exchange Online’s status is “service degraded“.
When we click on the link to get more detail we see this:
We can see that Exchange Online is experiencing problems and can read a bit more about the cause.
A few hours after this was posted, we received an update:
And so we can see that Microsoft’s engineers have addressed the issue and provided a fairly detailed explanation of its origin.
All good stuff and Microsoft’s transparency (or near enough) when it comes to service issues inspires confidence.
But what about your internal organizational dynamics? This can be more difficult to manage. Traditionally, service slowdowns or interruptions are reason to gather responsible teams together to pool knowledge and resources so the problem will (it’s hoped) be more quickly resolved.
If the misbehaving system is on premise, this makes sense; but the rules change when the software /service is provided from the cloud.
In these cases, you – as the technical point of contact or subject matter expert – will be called upon to provide answers and perhaps even a fix. But of course, if the service isn’t hosted on your computers or provided via your infrastructure (at least, not entirely) your level of interaction is limited.
This is when your interpersonal skills take precedence over your technical abilities; the key is managing expectations by:
1.) Explaining the problem as it’s currently understood
2.) Emphasizing what can and cannot be done by internal IT staff
3.) Providing regular updates to impacted groups
4.) Verifying and backing up your statements with information and bulletins from the vendor
Which brings me to the Office 365 Service Overview (or dashboard).
Here is where you keep track of the health of your tenant (and as I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s even a handy mobile version).
This is a very important tool which I recommend consulting often. Viewing it should become part of your daily routine to stay abreast of developments and the system’s state.