Compensation for service interruption
Microsoft provide financial backing to their commitment to achieve and maintain the service levels for each service. If they do not achieve and maintain the service levels for each service as described in the Service Level Agreement, then you might be eligible for a credit towards a portion of your monthly service fees.
Microsoft acknowledged that a potential move to the cloud made businesses wary of not having control over their Email Servers and therefore, not being able to influence up-time and availability of services. So when Microsoft released Office 365 to market, it was offered with a 99.9% financially backed up-time guarantee.
So all business owners who utilise Office 365 for their organisation can sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that Microsoft has promised them their services will be available 99.9% of the time, and in the case that Microsoft does not meet this promise, they may be financially reimbursed.
Simply, the SLA offers that if the services that you have subscribed to are not available for 99.9% of the time, you will be financially reimbursed. But what do the terms ‘uptime’ and ‘downtime’ actually mean in this context, and how are they defined?
Microsoft defines ‘Downtime’ as ‘any period of time when users are unable to send or receive email via all supported mailbox access which is calculated using Exchange application availability in database minutes and combined data where applicable from server, operating system, application, network segments and infrastructure services managed by Microsoft’.
The 99.9% is calculated as a ‘Monthly uptime percentage’. This is defined by Microsoft as
‘Calculated by taking the total number of minutes in a calendar month multiplied by the total number of users minus the total number of minutes of Downtime experienced by all users in a given calendar month, all divided by the total number of minutes in that calendar month multiplied by the total number of users.’
The monthly uptime percentage can be calculated with the following formula:
One thing to note is that the terms of the SLA are subject to change. The terms of the SLA will be fixed for the duration of the initial term of subscription. If a subscription is renewed, the version of the SLA that is current at the time of renewal will apply throughout the renewal term.
Additionally, there are a number of cases outlined in the SLA provided by Microsoft that would mean that 99.9% uptime promise is not applicable, and therefore, not financially backed.
- ‘Due to factors outside Microsoft’s reasonable control’
This vague statement is potentially huge, and open to interpretation. I read this as anything from an environmental disaster, to security threats, a terrorist attack or even a geographical power outage. I mean, if a freak storm blows away the data centre (that contained your email), this isn’t really within Microsoft’s reasonable control, is it? Incidents like this will be dealt on a case by case basis and reviewed by both Westcoast and Microsoft before any refund is issued.
- ‘Resulted from Customer’s or third party hardware or software’
This one is fair enough and probably expected. If your operating system on your laptop crashes and therefore you cannot connect your Email client, you cannot claim compensation from Microsoft.
- ‘Resulted from actions or inactions of customers or third parties’
Again, fair enough. If you are running third party tools which cause an incident Microsoft are not responsible for this and will not issue any compensation or refunds.
- ‘Caused by Customer’s use of Service after Microsoft advised to modify its use of the Service, if Customer did not modified its use as advised’
I think this statement is pretty straightforward and fair. You wouldn’t expect to be able to take legal action against a medical professional, if you didn’t take their advice, and the same applies here.
- During scheduled downtime
So, to be clear, Microsoft guarantees a 99.9% uptime, except for when declared ahead of time that the service is going to be down for maintenance.
Microsoft defines Scheduled Downtime as ‘(i) Downtime within pre-established maintenance windows or (ii) Downtime during major version upgrade’
- ‘During beta/preview and trial services (as determined by Microsoft)’
This is to be expected but maybe not all customers are aware of this.
The best example for Microsoft would define a service unavailable and due compensation would be for Exchange Online.
If you have an issue with Outlook sending emails for several hours but can send them via Outlook Web Access then there is no case for compensation, however if you are unable to mail using OWA due to a service incident or outage then you may be due compensation.
Per the above a snippet from Microsoft's SLA document provides similar information:
We have attached to this article all the Microsoft online services and the SLA's/compensation information around it, it does refer to Volume Licensing however the same functions apply for CSP licensing. Please be advised that Microsoft have the final decision to any requests around refunds.