A Credit For Office 365 Service Levels

As service level agreements (SLA) go, the Microsoft consolidated SLA is actually quite easy to read. The SLA is only six pages long and applies to commercial, public sector, third-party, common, academic, government and charity. The interesting aspect of the SLA is that Microsoft feels that the Office 365 service is so robust that it's willing to back it with a financial guarantee, in which businesses have a multitude of methods to recover service costs should the Office 365 service fall below the 99.9 per cent uptime guarantee.

Considering the size of some of the businesses, academic and government institutes that are now using Office 365, Microsoft needs to be absolutely sure Office 365 will deliver on its SLA or else pay outrageous amounts of service credits and dollars for each registered user, in every business that the outage has affected. Below are the edited highlights with regard to Office 365.

This SLA applies to the following Microsoft Services:

  • Exchange Online Archiving
  • Exchange Online
  • Forefront Online Protection for Exchange
  • Lync Online
  • Office Web Applications
  • SharePoint Online

According to Microsoft's SLA, "We provide financial backing to our commitment to achieve and maintain the Service Levels for each Service. If we do not achieve and maintain the Service Levels for each Service as described in this SLA, then you may be eligible for a credit towards a portion of your monthly service fees."

Uptime and downtime

Uptime and Downtime are two important terms that you need to understand (apart from Service Credits of course). Downtime is the total minutes in a month during which the aspects of a Service is unavailable, multiplied by the number of affected users. Scheduled Downtime and unavailability of a service, due to limitations such as the failure of a company's hardware or ISP failure are not eligible in the calculation. The following table outlines what qualifies as downtime eligible for credits.

The minimum "Monthly Uptime Percentage" for a Service is calculated using the following formula: [(User Minutes - Downtime)/User Minutes]*100. Many are aware that if this Monthly Uptime falls below the 99.9 per cent threshold then, according to the SLA, each affected business is eligible to seek financial redress as shown in the table below.

However, the SLA guarantee doesn't end here. Businesses may be eligible for further credits if service level agreements do not meet the following: email virus detection and blocking, spam, false positive, and specified email delivery effectiveness.

Virus detection and blocking

A 25 per cent Service Credit of the Applicable Monthly Service Fee is available if an infection occurs via an FOPE (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) scanned email. The maximum number of claims is one per month.

SPAM service credits

The Spam Effectiveness is defined as the percentage of inbound spam detected by the Microsoft anti-spam filtering system, per calendar month. The Spam Effectiveness Service Level does not apply to email containing mostly non-English content. The Service Credits available are shown below - however, there is a slight caveat. According to the SLA, "You must acknowledge that classification of spam is subjective and accept that Microsoft will make a good faith estimation of the spam capture rate based on evidence supplied by yourself."

False positive credits

False Positive is the ratio of legitimate business email incorrectly identified as spam by the filtering system to all email processed by the service in a calendar month. In other words, False Positive is the amount of legitimate mail that has been incorrectly identified as Spam. Note that there are several types of email that the False Positive Service Level does not apply to; one of which is pornographic email. Here are the service credits available.

ForeFront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) credits

Company-wide virus infection is an issue that no company wants to deal with. From the Service Credit table for FOPE, you can see that antivirus and spam protection needs to be working 100 per cent of the time. If FOPE fails at any point, then a business using Office 365 is eligible for the following credits depending on the percentage of the FOPE downtime.

Email delivery credits

Email Delivery Time is defined as the average of email delivery times measured in minutes over a calendar month. Email delivery is defined as the elapsed time from when a business email enters the FOPE network to when the first delivery attempt is made. Measurement is recorded every five minutes and sorted by elapsed time. The fastest 95 per cent of measurements are used to create the average for each calendar month. The email service level does not apply to bulk email.

As this article highlights, Service Level credits are available for more than the standard Office 365 Service. It is important to understand, that for this level of service credits to be offered in the Office 365 SLA, Microsoft is absolutely sure that its Office 365 data centre will never suffer a large scale outage. As an extra precaution, in the unlikely event that the data centre does experience an outage, Microsoft has designed a failover to an alternative data centre.

For more information on the Office 365 failover, do read our article Business Impact of a Cloud Crash. Finally, in the unlikely event that your business does experience a failure with the Office 365 service, do read the consolidated Microsoft Online Services SLA for further details on what is eligible and how and when application for service credit needs to be made.