Evolving Office 365 monitoring tools

I’ve been playing around with the Office 365 Admin app, now available for Windows Phone 8 and due to be available “soon” for Android and Apple iPhone. Think of the Windows Phone users like myself as the advanced beta testers before the more popular devices get their teeth into the app.

Office 365 Service Status

Office 365 Service Status

In any case, the new app is part of an ongoing effort to make Office 365 a more manageable beast, something that’s critical when a platform is growing by leaps and bounds. The financial details reported by Microsoft (an annual run rate of $1.5 billion) indicate that annual growth might be in the region of 130% and although I’ve calculated that Office 365 still only represents a small percentage of the overall Exchange installed base, the millions of users who connect daily deserve to be supported by reasonable management tools.

Office 365 experienced a couple of early hiccups, all of which appeared to be teething problems of the kind that you might expect in a service that had not yet matured. When problems happened then, the Office 365 dashboard used to dissolve into meaningless data and Twitter became the most reliable source of information. Tweets from people around the world revealed the true nature of any outage as well as the steps being taken by Microsoft to resolve issues, all in a highly dynamic manner.

Twitter is great, but no self-respecting sales representative can make a pitch to a prospective customer that features Twitter as the fulcrum for support information when things go bad. Well, you could try and make the case that a company should build its support framework around Twitter, but I should imagine that the discussion might be short and feature several four-letter words, followed by a rapid ejection of the sales person from the premises.

Developments such as the Office 365 Admin app therefore save the bacon for Microsoft sales people as well as delivering a better support experience for Office 365 tenants. That can’t be a bad thing.

The app itself is pretty simple. I doubt that I will need to be told when Exchange Online is not working properly because a problem with something like email delivery is noticed pretty quickly. However, functions such as provisioning are not as visible and issues in applications like SharePoint Online might not be important to you as they are to end users who depend on a document library. It’s good to be able to get a status update at a glance, which is what this app delivers.

If a problem is known, you can drill down to view the details of the incident. For instance, I now know that a DNS problem affected some tenants on November 21. This information is available on the Office 365 portal but I probably wouldn’t have looked there unless I had to – the app makes the data more accessible.

Incident status

Incident status

The new app isn’t perfect (it doesn’t refresh automatically as it should sometimes), but it’s a reasonable start to what might become a very useful tool. All you can ask is to see progress… and I guess this is progress.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna


About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
This entry was posted in Cloud, Email, Office 365 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Evolving Office 365 monitoring tools

  1. John says:

    Why on Earth would any sane company put their bread & butter (Emails) on the Public Cloud / Office 365 servers after the revelations of NSA PRISM.

  2. You are right to question the security of the public cloud after PRISM. Microsoft is trying to do something about this issue – see http://windowsitpro.com/blog/office-365-message-encryption-protect-your-email-against-spooks

  3. John says:

    NSA PRISM documentation showed Public Cloud servers / Office 365 servers have Backdoor Access.

    • If you don’t have the key, you won’t be able to decrypt the messages, even if such a backdoor exists. The documentation that I have read indicates that a) tapping was done to collect raw data before it reached various datacenters – this would collect encrypted data that couldn’t be accessed or b) proper legal requests were made to collect data from named accounts – this would collect information, but I don’t know if the encrypted messages could be decrypted. I imagine that they could be given the proper authority, presumably using super-user accounts.

      • The article cited is an old one now (in light of a developing story). It’s based on Outlook.com rather than Office 365, so the technical platforms are very different, and Microsoft emphasizes that they “only hand over information where it believes an order to be valid and would never accept “blanket orders” to hoover up numerous users’ data.” Also that Microsoft only complies with discovery orders covering “specific accounts or identifiers.” It’s valid and interesting to speculate whether messages encrypted to the level now being introduced within Office 365 can be cracked without using enormous amount of computing horsepower (without access to the keys). I guess it’s possible but it’s unlikely to be done in any systematic manner… And anyway (as I keep on saying), as an Office 365 customer, I have no fear about the agencies reading my email because I don’t do anything illegal. And with > 20 million mailboxes on Office 365 already, I imagine that any interception is done on a highly focused basis as described by Microsoft (specific accounts) and under legally valid court orders.

        I see you use Gmail – so you have exactly the same issues on that platform and you’re happy to use it.


  4. Pingback: Evolving Office 365 monitoring tools | Direct Cloud

  5. I like the direction that MS are going with this tool but can you trust MS to reliably report on its own service when the threat of legal and commercial impact is so high. If I was a o365 customer then I’d definitely be looking at 3rd party monitoring tools to bridge that gap.

  6. John says:

    If MS or Google gave key to decrypt Emails to any Public Cloud services (Outlook.com, Google Cloud, Office 365) 6 months ago, I am sure they are giving the key to decrypt Emails to any “new” feature for the Public Cloud (Office 365, Google Cloud).
    Also if MS or Google gave Backdoor Access to Public Cloud servers (Office 365, Google Cloud) 6 months ago, I am sure they are given Backdoor Access to Public Cloud servers (Office 365, Google Cloud) today.
    Let not be Naïve 🙂

    • You’re making a lot of assumptions there. Many have speculated that back doors exist and articles have been written to that effect, but I have seen no positive proof (that would stand up in a court of law) to show me that such back doors exist. We do know that Microsoft, Google, and other companies have had to comply with legal orders to provide data for named individuals; that will continue to happen and it’s just a fact of life. It does not mean that a back door exists. We do know that the three-letter agencies have tapped the Internet pipelines to monitor data before it gets anywhere near a Microsoft, Google, or other datacenter. That doesn’t surprise me either because it’s an obvious place to intercept data and much easier than having to manage interceptions for the many datacenters that are in operation today. So there’s a heap of speculation and a heap of theories being played out. But one thing that I discovered when I was responsible for HP security strategy from 2003 to 2007 is that many mind games are played in this domain, lots of obfuscation happens, and the actuality is often more surprising than you might imagine. I want to see solid proof before I’d state that Microsoft or any other cloud provider is totally compromised. So far I have not seen that proof.


  7. Pingback: NeWay Technologies – Weekly Newsletter #70 – November 21, 2013 | NeWay

  8. Pingback: NeWay Technologies – Weekly Newsletter #70 – November 22, 2013 | NeWay

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