In the last few months, the coronavirus has gone from a distant health problem that didn’t impact the U.S. to one of global concern.
Microsoft is telling all employees, including those in the Seattle area to work from home until March 25 as the business world works to stem the risks of infection from the spreading coronavirus outbreak. Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all issued similar requests to their workforce to stay home and work remotely. Large Fortune 100 companies, including IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Apple, are restricting employee travel and canceling big events or turning them into virtual gatherings, as they try to limit their employees’ potential exposure to the virus.
Microsoft canceled its MVP Summit in suburban Seattle and said it would turn the networking event into an online-only gathering. It is recommending that employees in Seattle work from home and advising all workers to avoid nonessential travel to regions affected by the virus.
Facebook in particular had a contractor from one of their Seattle offices diagnosed with symptoms of coronavirus. This individual was last in the offices February 21. As a result, Facebook closed this location until March 9. Apple has restricted employee travel to China, Italy, and South Korea, according to Bloomberg News. Adobe canceled its annual summit in Las Vegas, saying it would become an “online-only” experience.
Many businesses are responding to the coronavirus health risk by making it clear to their employees that their health and welfare is of utmost importance. Many companies are offering workers options that include remote access to work.
Microsoft has just now made the announcement that the Office 365 E1 trial license will be available free of charge for 6 months. This version includes Teams. After that time, they will help to onboard the trial users of the E1 license to the full version and all data will be transferred so the transition is smooth.
If bringing Office 365 E1 into your organization is not feasible, Microsoft also recommends everyone utilize the free version of Teams (basic version of Teams that is not attached to an Office 365 license), so everyone has access to the Teams platform.
Microsoft has issued the following statement in a notice dated March 5 by Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365:
“Here at Microsoft in the Puget Sound, we’re encouraging our teams to work from home as much as possible, as are many organizations in this region. And we expect this trend to continue across the world. At Microsoft, our top priority is the health and safety of employees, customers, partners, and communities. By making Teams available to as many people as possible, we aim to support public health and safety by keeping teams connected while they work apart.
Below, you’ll find detailed answers to 2 of your questions regarding our offering free access to Teams and our plan for avoiding service interruptions during times of increased usage. Over the next few days we’ll be sharing more tips, updates, and information related to remote work here.
Making Teams Available for Everyone
Teams is a part of Office 365. If your organization is licensed for Office 365, you already have it. But we want to make sure everyone has access to it during this time. Here are some simple ways to get Teams right away.
If you want to get started with Teams, we can get you up and running right away.
- If you have an email address through work or school, sign in using this link. We’ll get you into Teams in no time.
- If you’re using an email address like Gmail or Outlook, you can sign up for the freemium version of Teams by following this link.
The self-service links above work great for individuals, but if you’re an IT professional who wants to roll out Teams centrally, here’s what to do.
- If you work for a business that isn’t currently licensed for Teams, we’ve got you covered with a free Office 365 E1 offer for six months. Contact your Microsoft partner or sales representative to get started today. (Note: the same offer is available in the Government Cloud, but not available in GCC High and the Department of Defense.)
- If you work in education and want to set up teachers, students, and administrators on Teams, use Office 365 A1. This free version of Office 365 is available to all educational institutions. Sign up by following this link.
Keeping Teams Up and Running
You and your team depend on our tools to stay connected and get work done. We take that responsibility seriously, and we have a plan in place to make sure services stay up and running during impactful events like this. Our business continuity plan anticipates three types of impacts to the core aspects of the service:
- Systems: When there’s a sudden increase in usage, like the surge we recently saw in China.
- Location: When there’s an unexpected event that is location-specific, such as an earthquake or a powerful storm.
- People: When there’s an event that may impact the team maintaining the system, like the COVID-19 outbreak in the Puget Sound area.
We’ve recently tested service continuity during a usage spike in China. Since January 31, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase in Teams meetings, calling, and conferences there, and a 200 percent increase in Teams usage on mobile devices. Despite this usage increase, service has been fluid there throughout the outbreak. Our approach to delivering a highly available and resilient service centers on the following things:
Active/Active design: In Microsoft 365, we are driving towards having all services architected and operated in an active/active design which increases resiliency. This means that there are always multiple instances of a service running that can respond to user requests and that they are hosted in geographically dispersed data centers. All user traffic comes in through the Microsoft Front Door service and is automatically routed to the optimally located instance of the service and around any service failures to prevent or reduce impact to our customers.
Reduce incident scope: We seek to avoid incidents in the first place, but when they do happen, we strive to limit the scope of all incidents by having multiple instances of each service partitioned off from each other. In addition, we’re continuously driving improvements in monitoring through automation, enabling faster incident detection and response.
Fault isolation: Just as the services are designed and operated in an active/active fashion and are partitioned off from each other to prevent a failure in one from affecting another, the code base of the service is developed using similar partitioning principles called fault isolation. Fault isolation measures are incremental protections made within the code base itself. These measures help prevent an issue in one area from cascading into other areas of operation. You can read more about how we do this, along with all the details of our service continuity plan, in this document.
Adjusting to remote work can be a challenge. We get it, and we are here to provide the tools, tips, and information you need to help you and your team meet that challenge. We’re inspired by the agility and ingenuity that impacted schools, hospitals, and businesses have shown throughout COVID-19, and we are committed to helping organizations everywhere stay connected and productive during this difficult time.
If you have any questions regarding the free access to Teams and Office 365 E1, contact a Connection Account Manager anytime!