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Addressing the Office 365 Monitoring Gaps - Part 1

Office 365 is a tremendous service that we all know and love. With Office 365 IT Pros and end users alike are equipped with a multitude of applications (Exchange Online, Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, and more) that enable easier collaboration and increased productivity. Something as simple as collaborating on a word document in real time has changed the way people work.

However, as customers start their individual journeys to Office 365, there are some gaps in the portfolio of Office 365 monitoring and management tools that the service offers, and it is important to know and understand what these are in order to make one’s own experience as smooth as possible.

Given the scope of this topic and ENow's dedication to high quality posts we decided to break this up into 4 parts.

  1. New Challenges in a Cloud World
  2. Office 365 Outages (Spoiler it's not all on Microsoft)
  3. Office 365 Native Tools
  4. Filling the Office 365 Monitoring Gaps

New Challenges in a Cloud World

Traditional monitoring solutions focus almost entirely on the infrastructure supporting a specific service or application. While this approach proves relatively successful in a pure on-premises scenario, it is much less effective with Office 365 monitoring or cloud based systems for that matter. In an on-premises scenario, you typically have a full understanding of what each piece of the infrastructure is responsible for, what the relation is between components, and what “normal” behavior looks like for each component. When one component breaks or underperforms, you know what the impact will be on other components and the services depending on it.

Cloud-based systems are very different. First, you do not have visibility into the supporting infrastructure, let alone an understanding of how components relate to one another. As such, even if you would have access to all the metrics of the infrastructure, the information wouldn’t be useful. For example, consider the servers that Microsoft uses to implement the Office Graph or Search; outsiders have no way to know how many or what kind of servers are handling that work, what they’re doing, or what a normal performance baseline looks like. Even if this information were to be available: should customers care? Or is this solely Microsoft’s responsibility as part of the service agreement? The answer is simple: some metrics are just relevant to Microsoft alone. As a customer, you are purchasing a service and an experience. How Microsoft delivers that service, or how much load their systems are currently under doesn’t really matter. That is, at least, if the delivered service and functionality continues to live up to the expectations and SLA’s!

The massive scale of services, like Office 365 with users distributed across several data centers and hundreds of thousands of servers, make it nearly impossible to maintain the same monitoring paradigm. Within a sea of information, you can’t distinguish what information is relevant to you and what isn’t, in part because you don’t have complete information about all the components and in part because of the scale and complexity of the environment. This problem is worsened by the fact that the cloud service provider has little information about your network.

The fundamental differences between how an on-premises application and cloud-based system are managed created a need for a different monitoring approach. This approach must focus on the service and functionality that is being delivered, as well as the tasks one executes to capture the true user experience. For example, in Exchange Online, one of the core tasks is the ability to send and receive email, whereas in SharePoint Online, being able to upload, download and edit documents is the most frequent task. The way you provide the monitoring results must also account for the changing responsibilities of IT staff . While previous technologies may have been managed by separate, specialized teams, we see that these teams tend to converge, forcing administrators to be more up-to-date on technologies they may not be very familiar with.

Cloud-based systems, such as Office 365, enable organizations and users to work from virtually anywhere. Because of this, monitoring a service from a single location, typically the organization’s datacenter, no longer represents how applications are used in the real world. As users roam between various locations and connect from both within or outside the boundaries of the corporate network, it is important for an organization to understand if service issues are con ned to a single location, or if an outage is a effecting its operations at a larger scale –potentially even service-wide. Without proper Office 365 monitoring, and by relying solely on the built-in capabilities, administrators are often left to wait for feedback from their users to understand when something is wrong. This is far from ideal. Being able to pick up on early warnings of outages in any of the components within the infrastructure, including Office 365, is vital.

What's Next

When organizations move to Office 365, many believe that keeping the service up and running is solely on Microsoft. However, there is quite more to it. In part 2, we will go over Office 365 outages in more depth.


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