With COVID-19 continuing to impact people and countries around the world, teams everywhere are moving to remote work. Earlier this week, I posted a letter from Lily Zheng, our colleague in Shanghai, detailing her team’s experience using Microsoft Teams to work from home during the outbreak. Lily’s team is one of many. 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.
As we have read through your responses to Lily’s letter, it has become clear that there are two big questions on your minds. First, how can people access the free Teams offerings that Lily referenced? Second, what is our plan for avoiding service interruptions during times of increased usage? Below, you’ll find detailed answers to both. And over the next few days we’ll be sharing more tips, updates, and information related to remote work here. So check back often.
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 datacenters. 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.
Q. What happens when an individual signs in with work or school credentials?
A. If the individual is licensed for Teams, they will be logged into the product. If the individual is not licensed for Teams, they will be logged into the product and automatically receive a free license of Teams that is valid through January 2021. This includes video meetings for up to 250 participants and Live Events for up to 10,000, recording and screen sharing, along with chat and collaboration. Details for IT.
Q. What does the freemium version of Teams include?
A. This version gives you unlimited chat, built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling, 10 GB of team file storage, and 2 GB of personal file storage per user. You also get real-time collaboration with the Office apps for web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. There is no end date. Details here.
Q. Is there a user limit in the freemium version?
A. Beginning March 10, we are rolling out updates to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on user limits.
Q. Can I schedule meetings in the freemium version?
A. In the future, we will make it possible for users to schedule meetings. In the meantime, you can conduct impromptu video meetings and calls.
Q. How can IT admins access Teams for Education?
A. Teams has always been free to students and education professionals as a part of the Office 365 A1 offer. Access it here.
Q. Do you have any tips for working from home?
A. Lola Jacobson, one of our senior technical writers, posted a few basic tips last week. And we updated the Support remote workers using Microsoft Teams page on docs.Microsoft.com yesterday. We have more content on the way, so stay tuned.