April 19, 2017
What’s Your Contingency Plan for an Exchange Online Outage?This winter was sitting in a hotel room in Boston watching a blizzard fall outside my window. Not the worst situation I could be in (as I sipped my cup of coffee). At some point the news flashed a number at the bottom of my screen for folks to call if the power went out. If the power goes out? Now that would have changed my comfy scenario pretty quick and I jotted that number down just in case I needed a contingency plan. Does the hotel have a generator? Where are the emergency exits (elevators would be out). A moment ago I was enjoying the snowfall, but now I’m thinking ahead because…well…things happen.
Things happen. And it’s smart to have a contingency plan in play to ensure you aren’t just a standby victim waiting for the lights to come back on (or in the case of Exchange Online, for your email to come back up). In the years that Office 365’s Exchange Online has been available there have been major and minor outages of the service each year, often at inopportune times (as if there is an opportune time to lose email). I think of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Orlando in 2015 where the email service was down for several hours. Or the December 2015 event that hit Europe due to a misconfiguration error of a Microsoft engineer with Azure (which affected the Office 365 customers that rely on Azure for identity management and such). Or the June 30th, 2016 outage that affected some North American customers for up to 9 hours! Last day of the sales quarter!
Some say, “well, that’s the risk of going to the cloud and when things go down, they go down… and you wait!” That may be true of some things. But what if I told you there was an alternative when it comes to Exchange Online. What if I told you that when it goes down (and it DOES go down) your users could continue to work and not even know there was an outage. A pretty nifty trick, especially if you’re the one who proposed the move to Exchange Online and don’t want to have to explain the outage (or lack of ability to do anything other than fold your arms and wait for Microsoft to fix it).
The solution? Mimecast’s Continuity for Exchange/Exchange Online
The way this works is brilliant. When you bolt Mimecast on to the front end of your Exchange or Exchange Online, you basically have the MX records pointing in to Mimecast and then set up send/receive (aka outgoing/incoming) connectors to have mail flow between the two. That allows Mimecast to perform enterprise grade security scrubbing along with an optional archive data bank storing emails coming and going. In addition, Mimecast has their own MTA so in the event a problem occurs on the email server itself (Exchange or Exchange Online) the admin simply has to kick off a continuity event in their Mimecast administration portal and mail flow is now completely handled on the Mimecast side (with a 100% SLA). End users can continue to send and receive email in one of three ways: through Outlook if they have the Mimecast plugin for Outlook, through their Mimecast mobile app and/or through a Mimecast web portal.
One of the biggest challenges facing IT admins these days with regard to availability of the Office 365 suite of services is transparency. It’s often the case that end users start to complain about a loss of services but the IT admin doesn’t see an alert from within their Office 365 admin center. Everything is showing up green, but their end users faces are all red. The IT admin turns to Twitter or Reddit or other social media outlets to try to determine if the problem is on the company side or Microsoft’s side. In Microsoft’s defense there is quite a bit happening on their end and while one customer might be down or a grouping of customers, depending on the extent and type of outage, it isn’t time to throw out a red flag just yet. But for those customers who are down, they need more transparency. However, monitoring this type of outage is becoming increasingly more difficult as Microsoft breaks users into separate pods, ultimately obscuring the true extent of an outage.
To address the need for better transparency, Mimecast is up’ing its game in the continuity space by adding in Continuity Event Management or CEM. One of the key elements to CEM is the ability to monitor your connection to Exchange Online on a continuous basis looking for possible problems. It does this using an ‘organic’ inbound check (can my SMTP server receive mail) and a ‘synthetic’ outbound check (can my SMTP server send mail). In the event of a problem an alert gets sent through SMS or to an alternate email (logically because your primary is down) and you’re basically given a panic button to manage the alert. Push the button, invoke the Mimecast continuity mode for your people, go back to whatever it was you were doing before the alert with the knowledge that your people are fine.
Truth be told, things happen. You know it. Cloud infrastructure breaks down sometimes. If you’ve been impacted by a cloud disruption, you’re not alone. And if you haven’t (yet), you’re not immune. So what’s your contingency plan? What do you do when Exchange Online goes out in whole or in part? If your answer is ‘fold your arms and wait for Microsoft to fix it’ that’s a choice you’re making. It’s not the only choice you have. You could choose to have a plan b. An email continuity solution that can keep your people sending and receiving email, despite the outage.
You have a choice.
See how Mimecast can make email safer for your business. Schedule a demo today!
A long time ago, a supercomputer named Deep Thought concluded that the answer to the ultimate question to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything was 42. Although it took Deep Thought 7 and a half million years to produce this answer, it concluded that finding the answer would have been much simpler had it known the question. Deep Thought didn't understand what the "ultimate question" was. And we'll agree; it's definitely hard to provide an answer without a question. Here at Mimecast though, we have the question…the ultimate question…42 of them to be exact!
Join us as we get to know our Mimecast experts in a new blog series called “42 Questions.” We may not find out the answer to life at the end, but we’ll definitely find the answer to what our expert thinks it means to be a Mimecaster, the top security threats they worry about, and even their favorite superhero just to name a few. That should hold us over while we come to a consensus on why 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything! Enjoy!
Video Script below:
JLW: I’m Jamie Whalen, Social Media Manager at Mimecast and we’re here with J. Peter Bruzzese, a Mimecast employee and Microsoft MVP. We will be asking him a set of 42 quick rapid response questions to get to know who J. Peter is just a little bit more. Are you ready for 42 questions?
J.PETER: You bet- “Greetings Mimecast and Jamie!”
1. What is your MVP Technical expertise?
Awarded 7 times, first 4 times was for exchange 2nd two times was for Office 365. And to put it all into one bucket, the office service, and services bucket.
2. Favorite actress?
3. Favorite movie?
Rocky I, II, III
4. Infrastructure or Software as a service?
Software. Infrastructure is very legacy facing which is still necessary for a hybrid move to cloud but with container and such along with SaaS really providing what most organization need… I see SaaS as the real future in 5 years’ time.
5. Favorite food?
Anything parmesan. Chicken, eggplant, etc.
6. Why do you consult for Mimecast?
When I was first looking at Office 365, I liked it but I felt like there was a need for something else to fix all of the gaps in Office 365. And so, in looking around, the only solution I found that could fill the gap of security, archiving, availability, was Mimecast. And so I decided to work for them.
(Want to see the sleep chambers? They encourage napping!!! I’m a huge fan of napping.)
7. Typical bedtime?
Good question. Any time after midnight.
8. Bed attire?
Pajama bottoms and a t-shirt (either incredible Hulk shirt or some other superhero).
9. Scariest place you’ve ever been?
I lived in Ciudad del Este Paraguay for a year. It’s on the border of Brazil and Argentina. It had its scary moments.
10. Nicest place you’ve ever been?
Ariel de Cabo, an area right above Rio de Jenario.
11. How many languages do you speak?
One – English. But I can also hold conversations in Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.
12. Say something in Mandarin?
Wo de mingze Li Xiao Lung.
13. What did you just say?
My name is Bruce Lee.
14. Favorite sci-fi weapon?
15. Coolest career moment?
First published book in my hands and the first time I was awarded the MVP for Exchange.
16. Favorite third party bolt-on solution for Exchange on-prem or online?
Mimecast (look around!)
17. Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter. I don’t do Facebook.
18. Top 3 security threats you worry about?
Spear phishing, Ransomware, Impersonation wire transfer hoaxes.
19. Coolest party game?
Binary Code Conversion. It’s where you take decimal numbers and convert them to binary and vice versa. How’s that for geeky?
20. Favorite superhero?
Marvel- the Hulk. But if you’re talking about DC- Superman.
21. Coolest tech person you’ve met?
(Take out iPhone and show picture of Steve Wozniak) Steve Wozniak.
22. If you could go to Mars would you do it?
Absolutely not… have you seen the Martian? Yeah… no thanks.
23. What’s your favorite color?
24. Least favorite color?
25. Favorite tech gadget you can’t get enough of?
26. Favorite comedian?
27. How would you describe the last election?
Well… I’m neutral but I did hear someone call it a Kobiyashi Maru… and that was funny.
28. Favorite number?
29. What’s your favorite part of Office 365?
30. What’s your least favorite part of Office 365?
(Hey, I heard someone you knew made something here, what and where is it? – enter Parson’s Green)
31. Who built this table?
John Dickey, the owner of the Timberguys. Really awesome stuff.
32. Favorite part of the Mimecast space?
This table in the Parson’s Green room. Believe it or not, the wood came from a boat that was owned by Louis Boxer.
33. How do you know him?
We went to school together.
34. How would you describe yourself?
Two words: driven and passionate
35. Who makes you laugh?
36. What’s keeping you busy these days?
A lot of traveling, talking about cyber resilience and risk mitigation. Specifically with Office 365. With the many threats that are facing the world, you need something on the front end of Office 365 to help provide mitigation and that resiliency. Speaking about here in the states, UK, and Canada.
37. What is a great enhancement a company can assist with, a third party bolt-on enhancement?
Mimecast is one. The enhancements that Mimecast can assist with is really amazing. It’s not just a siloed solution, Mimecast was developed in the cloud, not ported into the cloud. And, they hit upon security, archiving, continuity. Hitting on all things 0365, which really hits on everything you would need to be successful. Mimecast is the only solution I have found that can do that.
38. What’s something you can’t do?
39. What do you like best about Mimecast?
Well as a solution, Mimecast is something that provides a full blanket of resiliency. Mimecast is security, archiving, continuity. It protects you from the bad guys, and if something goes wrong it’s the continuity that keeps you up and running. The fact that you can continue to be up and running no matter what is something that Mimecast can give you.
40. What’s the best gift you’ve received?
My two children. A boy who’s 9 and a girl who’s 6.
41. Dogs or cats?
Dogs, I’m allergic to cats.
42. Last question, what’s the best part about being a Mimecaster?
The best part is the people, the people at Mimecast they work hard, are very diligent. They are committed to providing cyber resiliency to their customers. I think it’s fantastic. But hands down, it’s the people that make Mimecast.
Stay tuned for a new 42 questions coming up in February. Where you’ll get to know Mimecast a little bit better.
Episode 3: ILTACON Event, Washington DC
J. Peter, where are you?
Greetings! J .Peter here and this week I’m in Washington DC. DC is an amazing town with so many historical locations museums to visit. I had a chance to see the White House (from the outside of course), the Washington Monument and a few Smithsonian museums.
Incidentally, a little bit of trivia here, the Washington monument is two different colors. The base started in 1848 but the building stopped from 1854 to 1877 due to funding issues and… well… the Civil War. When they started again the marble color was slightly different.
Why are you there?
I’m here in Washington DC to speak at ILTACON 2016 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. ILTACON is a technology conference focused on law firms and legal departments. The folks running the conference apparently read an article I wrote in InfoWorld about the gotchas of Office 365 and asked if I would come and give an Office 365 session.
What are you there for?
The session I’m giving is entitled: Office 365: Where do you start?
It covers the three main questions I’m often asked by folks regarding Office 365. Should we move to Office 365? How do we move to Office 365? What are the gotchas (aka buyers remorse) concerns when moving to Office 365?
Personally, I love what Microsoft has done with Office 365. It’s a fantastic solution with flexible price points depending on your needs. That doesn’t mean I recommend it for everyone. But I think it’s obvious that it’s the future email solution for most enterprise customers. With how to make the move I discussed the decisions that need to be made. Do I do a cutover or a hybrid staged migration? Do I use a third-party migration solution? Do I pull in consultants for the hybrid configuration? If I go with a hybrid do I determine self/same or single sign on and then do I go with ADFS or some kind of third-party solution like Okta or Centrify? With the gotchas of a migration… what do I do with my legacy archive solution? And then with post-migration gaps… what about my security with Office 365? How do I maintain continuity or availability of services even when Office 365 is down?
The session was not a product pitch for Mimecast by any means but I made sure to point out where Mimecast fills the gaps with regard to security, archiving and continuity. Mimecast had a booth at the event so I was able to point them off to the Mimecast folks for more information. In addition, we gave out copies of the Conversational Geek book sponsored by Mimecast entitled “Conversational Office 365 Risk Mitigation” which just had a 2nd Edition release this week and you’re welcome to download the book directly with the link provided here.
It was a great event. I had a chance to talk to a lot of folks moving toward Office 365, many with some trepidation, and I was able to allay those fears by helping them appreciate that just like our on-premises Exchange, there is an ecosystem of third-party solutions that can assist in enhancing what Microsoft is providing.
Hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed following me to Washington DC.
Where am I going next? Your roadmap says Atlanta Georgia for Ignite. But I might just surprise you folks with a bonus stop!
Episode 2: Lunch Event at the Palms - Nashville, TN
Q: J. Peter, where are you?
A: Greetings! J .Peter here and this week I’m in Nashville Tennessee. When I think of Nashville I think of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry was founded nearly 100 years ago in 1925 and is a weekly country music stage concert that has hosted all the greats over the years. Did you know it’s the longest-running radio broadcast in US history? It’s also a hotspot for Pokemon Go players. I caught several new ones right in front of the place. But I digress.
Nashville also makes me think of the movie “The Thing Called Love”. A 1993 film about four young song writers trying to get their music noticed. Starred River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, a young Sandra Bullock and a young Dermot Mulroney.
Q: Why are you there?
A: I’m here in Nashville TN to Keynote a lunch event sponsored by Mimecast. It’s held at the Palm Restaurant in downtown Nashville. I’ve done events at Palm’s before in Orlando, Chicago, Colorado, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Philly and I’m a huge fan of this location as a venue. Should have about 25 in the audience and I’m looking forward to having a lively discussion about Office 365.
Q: What are you there for?
A: I’m going to discuss with the audience a comparison between the big switch that occurred by in the day with a move to electricity being generated as a utility as opposed to it being generated on-premises and our day, where we are moving from on-prem to the cloud. This comparison was brought to my attention by Nicholas Carr in his book “The Big Switch” and I like to tell the story for the audience. By the end of the discussion we hone in on Office 365 rhetoric vs. reality and I point out several areas where there is a need for enhancements in areas like Security, Compliance and Archiving, and increased availability or continuity. At the end of the event, I answered questions from the audience and then give everyone a copy of the book “Conversational Office 365 Risk Mitigation” sponsored by Mimecast.
One question that came up was “how is Microsoft’s archive solution different from a third-party?” I explained that Microsoft doesn’t have a traditional archive solution which goes beyond eDiscovery and offers user interactivity (aka a read-only archive), nor does it allow for data agility or portability as a separate data bank solution. Rather, it’s simply legal hold on all mailboxes, which does provide for eDiscovery but does not reflect the modern advancements we’ve come to expect from an enterprise-grade archive solution. It was a good question I thought.
Q: Last question, right now Ransomware is a big topic in the news, can you tell me what you’ve heard recently on it?
A: Another question involved how Office 365 handles advanced threats like ransomware. Well… if you have an E5 plan or pay extra for their advanced threat protection, it includes a sandboxing solution that can help against attachments that might include a ransomware attack. Recently a macro-enabled Word document ransomware attack attracted a lot of attention in the news because it made it through Office 365 defenses until they eventually caught it and updated their security solution to spot it. Typically that happens from time to time. Something gets through initially until it’s discovered and blocked. It’s one of the reasons I preach defense in depth. If one solution doesn’t have the fix than the other one might. I also like having solutions that offer different features. For example, Mimecast does sandbox too but first it does document conversion. So a file that comes in with ransomware in a weaponized attachment would have been rendered ineffective due to the document conversion process. That’s something Microsoft simply doesn’t have. So by layering your security approach you have a much better chance of protecting your organization from the modern threats that come our way, whether ransomware, impersonation attacks, spear phishing, whaling and so on.
Hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed following me to Nashville Tennessee
Where am I going next? The ITLA Conference in Washington DC!!!