Notes from the field: Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo

Generally, Office 365/Microsoft 365 data is located in the datacentre region that relates to the country where the company’s registered address is. If your company is registered in Amsterdam, you’ll be in West Europe. If you’re registered in New York, you’ll be in a US datacentre somewhere. Registered in the UK… it depends on when your tenant was created but it could be in West Europe (if it’s an older tenant, like mine) or in the UK…

For global organisations, this can be a challenge. If your data is on the other side of the world then you may find that latency adversely impacts access to resources. The Microsoft global network is designed to efficiently route traffic from local points of presence to Microsoft datacentres over fast links, but sometimes that’s not enough. In these cases, check out the Microsoft docs on network planning and performance tuning for Microsoft 365.

The other challenge relates to data residency and, as you can expect, there are some options.

One would be to establish multiple tenants. But that means multiple Azure AD instances. Added to which, a DNS name can only be registered in one place. This means I can’t have users with @markwilson.co.uk addresses (for example) in more than one tenant. For a global organisation with everyone using an @company.com address for identity, email and instant messaging, that’s going be a challenge.

Another option is Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo. This service allows the provisioning and storage of data at rest in the locations of your choice. Note that this is not designed for performance optimisation – in fact, the Microsoft website specifically calls this out:

“Note that Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo is not designed for performance optimization, it is designed to meet data residency requirements”.

Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo documentation

On the face of it, Multi-Geo sounds great, but it has some pretty significant licensing restrictions:

“Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo is available as an add-on to [selected] Microsoft 365 subscription plans for Enterprise Agreement customers with a minimum of 250 Microsoft 365 seats in their tenant, and a minimum of 5% of those seats using multi-geo. User subscription licenses must be on the same Enterprise Agreement as the Multi-Geo Services licenses.”

Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo documentation

In my case, with a US-headquartered organisation where the UK organisation was tiny in comparison, Microsoft 365 Multi-Geo became cost-prohibitive. With around 80,000 US seats and only up to 1500 in the UK, they would have needed almost three times the number of licences in order to hit the 5% minimum seat count in the UK satellite location. And it needs to be on an Enterprise Agreement (not Cloud Services Provider), although that’s probably not such a challenge when operating at this scale.

For the vast majority of Microsoft 365 clients that I work with Multi-Geo is not even a consideration. But if it is for you, then go in with your eyes open. The reliance on the US-HQ IT team for Microsoft 365 led to a total change of strategy for my client… and that meant the project was no longer led from the UK, and therefore they no longer needed my team’s services.

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