Data residency solved with Office 365 Multi-Geo capability

Imahe Glogal map showing MSFT capabilities in NAM, EMEA, ASPAC
By Anthony Ashcroft on

Office 365 Tenant locations

Multi-geo data residency is becoming a necessity for many businesses. ‘Choosing’ a geographic location when creating an Office 365 tenant causes problems for multi-national organisations. They need to comply with different data residency requirements for the countries or industries in which they operate. Also referred to as ‘data-at-rest’ or ‘data sovereignty,’ requirements are increasingly being strengthened to protect data and security. When initially signing up for an Office 365 tenant, you choose a single location to have your  tenant provisioned. For example, choose EMEA, and (almost all) the data is stored in European datacentres – presently Dublin and The Netherlands. There are some “go local” locations, such as UK, Australia and Japan, providing country-specific locations for your tenant. However, you are still restricted to a single location.

Why data residency rules are a problem?

When data residency requirements means you cannot store all your data in one location, choices are not great:

  • Maintain an on-premises infrastructure to service those regions which have data residency requirements
  • Or provision multiple Office 365 tenants across the various regions which have data residency requirements

Both options are inefficient and impractical. They increase the complexity of the overall solution, requiring additional infrastructure and complicating the management and administration. The latter option can also create co-existence problems. For example, you cannot use the same email domain in multiple tenants. And there are limitations of cross-tenant collaboration, free/busy and calendar sharing.



Image: world map showing data residency provision with )365 Multi-geo

At Ignite 2017, Microsoft announced Multi-Geo capabilities for Office 365. Multi-geo allows a single Office 365 tenant to span multiple geographic locations (Multi-Geos). This gives you the option to store and manage data in specific locations on a per-user basis. On release, this feature means multi-nationals can now confidently deploy Office 365  with its associated productivity and collaboration benefits. Multi-geo allows you to meet data residency requirements by locating data in specific locations for each user. The data barriers that previously existed between the regions will no longer exist. So searching in SharePoint will return search results regardless of which geo your content is located. And Delve will present content for all your users, regardless of which geo location it resides.

How will Multi-Geo work?

In a multi-geo setup, the Office 365 tenant will consist of a central, default location, such as EMEA and one or more satellite locations, for example North America. The tenant will have the ability to span multiple locations, ensuring that the data residency sits within the boundaries of each respective geo. Configuring multi-geo will use existing tools such as Azure Active Directory Connect and PowerShell. No doubt you will already be using these tools already to manage the Office 365 tenant and hybrid deployment. Now they will be extended to enable multi-geo in the tenant and assign locations to users. Multi-geo information, such as geo locations and user information, will be mastered in Azure Active Directory (AAD). Your users will benefit from global visibility as the tenant information will be mastered centrally and synchronised into each geo location.

As a result, a user whose preferred OneDrive data location is Europe will be able to share with users in North America or other configured geo locations. And using Search and Delve, your users will be able to find content created anywhere within the tenancy . If you want to restrict access, separate policies can be configured within each geo location to create geo-specific sharing policies. Importantly multi-geo will not impact the experience of your end users, who will continue to be able to access their email and OneDrive files, whilst their data is being moved between geos.

When will Multi-Geo be available?

Multi-Geo capabilities are currently being previewed in Exchange Online and OneDrive and will be generally available in the first half of calendar year 2018. SharePoint is a little further behind in development and is due to be previewed in the same period.

What are the limitations of Multi-Geo?

Commercially, the licensing model has not yet been released, so understanding the cost impact of implementation to your organisation is not yet possible. However, indications suggest that licensing will be based upon workloads used in each geo location rather than on a per-user basis. For example, using OneDrive and Exchange Online in one location will incur a cost. If users are deployed to additional locations, the same cost will be incurred again per location. This makes things simple for you from a budgetary and licensing perspective, but to ensure optimum efficiency you will need to plan.

Although multi-geo covers most of Office 365 locations, some locations are not included within the multi-geo capability. For example, local regulation means German data centres cannot be included as part of a multi-geo tenant.

Microsoft are very keen to point out that this is a data residency solution, and is not the answer to performance issues. There are many other resources available discussing performance issues of Office 365. Most can be solved or improved by ensuring the optimum configuration of network technologies, such as DNS.

How can Silversands help?

We aim to get to the heart of the matter and talk to the right person with a clear agenda. We offer a complimentary 1-2-1 skype session with one of our top specialists in this field. This provides an opportunity to ask questions and understand if, when and how to adopt this solution within your organisation. Complete and submit the form below if you want to take up this offer. Multi-Geo is a topic in our What’s new in Office 365 Seminars next quarter if you want to hear more. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up with our regular blogs and commentary.

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