Microsoft Online Services Support Lifecycle FAQ
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For Business and Developer Online Services
1. What is a Microsoft Online Service?
A Microsoft Online Service is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft that may or may not require local computing resources. Examples of Business and Developer Online Services include Office 365, Windows Azure, CRM Online, and Intune. Windows Azure Cloud Services is guided by a specific Windows Azure lifecycle policy.
2. What does Microsoft mean by “cloud-based”?
A cloud-based service typically refers to a computing infrastructure that is located in a major datacenter outside of a customer premise and performs services for users using local computing resources. Please note that Microsoft explicitly licenses various products as commercial Online Services. For more information, please consult with your Microsoft account representative.
3. I am familiar with traditional Microsoft Support Lifecycle policies such as Mainstream Support and Extended Support phases. In what ways are the Online Services Support Lifecycle policies similar or different?
The Online Services Support Lifecycle policies differ in some respects from traditional Support Lifecycle policies, but are very similar in their underlying principles. A few key examples are:
- Both polices put in place a framework for consistency and predictability for Microsoft’s packaged software and Online Services.
- As with the Service Pack policy applicable to on-premises software, Microsoft’s Online Services Support Lifecycle policy provides a 12 month period for customers to plan for and implement changes to their environment. Changes must be implemented or service degradation or interruption is possible.
- As with on-premises software, security updates are provided for publically supported Online Services at no charge. Some security updates are applied to Online Services hosted by Microsoft; others may require customer action to apply updates to client software.
- Support is based on the duration of customer’s agreement with Microsoft. As a result, there is no General Availability date that begins a support period such as Mainstream Support. In addition, the concept of Extended Support is also not applicable, as an Online Service is always fully supported for the duration of the customer’s agreement with Microsoft.
- Notification of disruptive change will be provided either to the administrative contact of the Microsoft Online Service or the MSL site. The means of communication may vary depending on the service and may include MSL website. Actual implementation dates for these changes may vary by customer, due to the timing of changes in the datacenter.
- Online Services may follow a more rapid release cadence in comparison to on-premises software. While remaining current on the latest updates is usually recommended, this may prove difficult for some commercial customers. As a result, updates that provide continued backward compatible functionality are a key quality of all Online Services. Microsoft is committed to not incurring a disruptive change event without providing a minimum of 12 months of prior notification to the administrative contact.
4. I frequently visit the Microsoft Support Lifecycle site at support.microsoft.com/lifecycle to know when my on-premise software – such as Microsoft Windows – leaves support. How can I prepare to be informed of disruptive changes in my Microsoft Online Service?
Customer IT professionals are strongly encouraged to proactively integrate into their planning and maintenance processes the notification alerts provided by their Microsoft Online Service. These notifications are delivered to the administrative contact declared when the Online Service agreement was originally established.
Note: While Microsoft will notify customers of a disruptive change a minimum of 12 months before they must take action to accommodate the change, failure to stay current with compatible client software may result in service degradation or interruption. For more information on how a Microsoft Online Service provides notifications, please visit the website for that Online Service.
5. Are security updates considered a “disruptive change” by this policy?
No. Disruptive change as defined by the Support Lifecycle policies for Business and Developer Online Services refers solely to non-security changes that require a customer or administrator to take action in order to avoid significant degradation to the normal operation of the Online Service . Rapid deployment of security updates is a crucial and time-sensitive activity to preserve the security of your IT infrastructure and company data.
6. What are examples of a "disruptive change"?
Illustrations of Disruptive Change:
- Customer or administrator must upgrade Internet Explorer (or other supported Web browser) from one version to another on client computer(s).
- Customer or administrator must modify tools or LOB applications as result of a change to documented interfaces.
- Customer or administrator must respond to Microsoft removing or deprecating existing service functionality.
- Customer or administrator must respond to a change of system requirements.
- Customer or administrator must respond to a significant change in user experience (as determined by Microsoft; (e.g., a significant change in user interface; a significant change in user interaction or workflow) by providing training, documentation, or other assistance to end users.
Illustrations of Non-Disruptive Change:
- Microsoft applies bug or security fixes to the service.
- Microsoft releases public updates for Office client applications. (Recommendation is to use automatic update to install.)
- Microsoft adds new functionality to the service. (May result in subtle changes in user experience, but requires no retraining for typical users.)
- Microsoft makes feature enhancements to existing functionality. (May result in subtle changes in user experience, but requires no retraining for typical users.)
7. How do I know who my administrative contact is for my Microsoft Online Service?
This contact information is provided when the Online Services agreement is set up between customer and Microsoft. For additional assistance, please contact your Microsoft account representative.
The Microsoft Support Lifecycle (MSL) policy provides transparent, predictable information regarding the support lifecycle of Microsoft products. More information is available on the MSL web site http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle.