Office 365 E1 and E2 plans (Exchange Online Plan 1) Mail Item Recovery Limitations & Solutions


Woody Walton 2010

Woody Walton

Office 365 is a great solution for many customers.  Its benefits over on premise solutions in terms of cost in infrastructure, deployment, and management are now acknowledged by most partners out there.  As I am sure you are aware, it is not a panacea either.  Certain workloads like email are ripe to move to the cloud, but we must migrate to the cloud knowing the capabilities of the cloud service.  We must know the tradeoffs in features or customization, and the governors that are imposed in multi-tenant environments like Office 365.  Having a solid understanding of the Service capability before you pitch it to the customer is paramount.  Do not promise the stars unless you can deliver.

I cannot count the number of times a partner has backed themselves into a hole because they didn’t have a solid understanding of Office 365.  They went about selling the service, and then later came to understand that it didn’t do what they thought or what the customer required.   This can create a messy situation where you can lose face with a customer and perhaps future business.  I am not saying that selling Office 365 will tarnish your reputation with your customer, …I am saying knowing the explicit needs of your customer and comparing that with the proposed solution using a well grounded knowledge of the solution will save you a lot of headache later.  Do not just read the marketing hype; know the nitty gritty!

Let me use one illustration of a recent partner/ customer issue to drive the point home:

A Partner had a customer who had somehow deleted a bunch of email from a folder within their inbox where they kept archived email.  The customer contacted the partner to help them get the email back, but took their time in doing so.  The partner, assuming because Microsoft has redundant datacenters and backs up everything, the email would be no problem to recover. The reality was that the customer swore they did not delete it (sound familiar), and when the partner contacted support the 14 day window on deleted item recovery for individual email items was past.  the mail was not recoverable.  We (several people at the distributor, within Microsoft, and myself) escalated this internally to attempt to help the partner out, but in the end it took a lot of time and bandwidth of the partner, Microsoft, and the distributor, ultimately to be told that after 14 days the email is gone. 

The first inclination is to cast blame at Microsoft, but that is not prudent.  Remember when I stated we should be knowledgeable going in?  …in this case the partner was not.  Microsoft maintains Service Descriptions of the Microsoft Office 365 service offerings.  They can be found here.  They are updated regularly to include new and updated information.  I encourage all of you to read these documents occasionally.   Doing so will key you in on very important information such as this snip:

Deleted Item Recovery

Exchange Online enables users to restore items that they have deleted from any e-mail folder, including the Deleted Items folder. Users can perform this recovery themselves using OWA, Office Outlook 2010 or Office Outlook 2007.  They have 14 days to recover deleted items before they are removed from the Exchange Online system.   These policies do not apply to messages deleted from the Forefront Online Protection for Exchange spam quarantine.

This is the only commitment we provide regarding email recovery at the item or folder level.

Had the partner known this he might have proposed a different or complimentary solution. For instance, Office 365 Plan E3 includes Exchange Online Archive, our cloud service based archiving solution.  Exchange Online Archive can also be purchased a la carte.  The predecessor online service, BPOS (business productivity online suite) had a similar complimentary service called Exchange Hosted Archive.  Net net, the purchase of another Office 365 plan, or adding Exchange Online Archive would have made this a non issue.

Microsoft, in our guidance on our cloud solutions has always proposed that if customers want to ensure that every email item is retained they should implement archiving.  Either via archiving solutions provided by Microsoft or by journaling to a third-party on-premise or cloud-based archive. …you can find out more about how to enable journaling for a third party service (on premise or cloud) within the service description. Winking smile

knowing any of this the partner would have been armed to deal with the problem right the first time and saved a lot of hassle and customer satisfaction problems. The bottom line is you need to know what you are selling.   any number of well thought out solutions could have kept this problem from occurring.  Needless to say, you now know this and have the benefit of going to school on another partners unfortunate circumstance.  It can happen to any of us.  Make certain you are prepared going in: (broken record starts) READ THE OFFICE 365 SERVICE DESCRIPTIONS!


Thanks and regards,



Comments (1)
  1. says:

    Great blog post, Woody!  

    Part of the appeal of a 3rd party archive – above and beyond Advanced Discovery and Compliance – is Data Protection.  When archiving to a 3rd party like LiveOffice, Exchange and Office 365 customers can assure they will always have multiple copies of their data in SAS 70 Type II global data centers.  This video from Gartner and LiveOffice addresses data protection as well as other very important considerations around compliance and discovery.

    As Microsoft's approved 3rd party archiving vendor, LiveOffice can help Office 365 customers who need additional functionality above and beyond EOA (Exchange Online Archive) and Advanced Archiving in plans E3 and E4.


    Dave Huth

    Microsoft Global Alliance Manager

    LiveOffice LLC



    LiveOffice + Office 365:  Archiving Made Simple

    Reduce migration risk, stay compliant and accelerate e-discovery

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