With so many of Microsoft's customers moving to full-time remote work—and relying on the company's cloud services to do so, Microsoft outlined the measures itis taking to help ensure business continuity at this critical time.
During the last week, Microsoft saw usage increases in services including Microsoft Teams, Windows Virtual Desktop, and Power BI.
The company says it has seen a 775 percent increase of its cloud services in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders. There has been also a very significant spike in Teams usage, and now have more than 44 million daily users. Those users generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes on Teams daily in a single week.
In addition, Microsoft says that Windows Virtual Desktop usage has grown more than 3x and that government use of public Power BI to share COVID-19 dashboards with citizens has surged by 42 percent in a week.
According to Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, Microsoft
's top priority remains support for critical health and safety organizations and ensuring remote workers stay up and running with the core functionality of Teams.
Specifically, Microsoft is providing the highest level of monitoring during this time for the following:
- First Responders (fire, EMS, and police dispatch systems)
- Emergency routing and reporting applications
- Medical supply management and delivery systems
- Applications to alert emergency response teams for accidents, fires, and other issues
- Healthbots, health screening applications, and websites
- Health management applications and record systems
Given these prioritization criteria, Spataro, says that Microsoft is implementing a few temporary restrictions "designed to balance the best possible experience for all of our customers." The company has placed limits on free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers. Microsoft also has limits on certain resources for new subscriptions. "These are ‘soft’ quota limits, and customers can raise support requests to increase these limits. If requests cannot be met immediately, we recommend customers use alternative regions (of our 54 live regions) that may have less demand surge. To manage surges in demand, we will expedite the creation of new capacity in the appropriate region," Spataro said.
Despite the significant increase in demand, Microsoft says it has not had any significant service disruptions. As a result of the surge in use over the last week, Microsoft experienced significant demand in some regions (Europe North, Europe West, U.K. South, France Central, Asia East, India South, Brazil South) and is observing deployments for some compute resource types in these regions drop below the typical 99.99 percent success rates.
Although the majority of deployments still succeed, Microsoft has a process in place to ensure that customers that encounter repeated issues receive relevant mitigation options. "We treat these short-term allocation shortfalls as a service incident and we send targeted updates and mitigation guidance to impacted customers via Azure Service Health—as per our standard process for any known platform issues," according to Spataro.
Microsoft has standard operating procedures for how it manages both mitigation and communication. Impacted customers and partners are notified through the Service Health experience in the Azure portal and/or in the Microsoft 365 admin center.
Microsoft is also expediting the addition of significant new capacity that will be available in the weeks ahead.
To best support Microsoft's Teams customers worldwide and accommodate new growth and demand, the company made a few temporary adjustments to select non-essential capabilities such as how often it checks for user presence, the interval in which Microsoft shows when the other party is typing, and video resolution.
Microsoft is also monitoring performance and usage trends to ensure it is optimizing services for gamers worldwide. At the same time, proactive steps are taken to plan for high-usage periods, which includes taking prudent measures with Microsoft's publishing partners to deliver higher-bandwidth activities like game updates during off-peak hours.