microsoft outlook outage
June 25, 2014

Microsoft Exchange Online Suffers Nine Hour Outage

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

When the Internet goes out it can leave people feeling a bit disconnected and even frustrated, but this week an outage of Microsoft Exchange Online brought down business users as well, making it difficult and even impossible for many to do any work. That likely isn't good for Microsoft's business.

The Washington Post's Hayley Tsukayama and Danielle Paquette suggested "It was like the 1980s again in offices… workers (had) no choice but to pick up the phone or wander over to their colleagues to chat in person." It was a blast from the past the Redmond, Wash.-tech giant likely didn't need as it competes with Google and other firms in providing cloud-based services.

Microsoft's handling of the situation was by some accounts also not what many customers likely expected either. Nearly 60 percent of Microsoft's global revenue now comes from business users where Outlook is the product of choice for some 50 million who rely on the cloud-based office products.

Throughout Tuesday Microsoft confirmed that there was an outage, but declined to offer any details about the size or even the scope of the problem. Only in the early evening did the company report that it had resolved the problem, and shortly after 6pm ET announced that users should see undelivered messages start to hit inboxes.

Microsoft announced that the problem was limited to North America, but so far hasn't answered questions as what exactly brought down its cloud service.

"We sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident may have caused," Microsoft said in a statement as reported online, including by the Washington Post.

On the official Office 365 support forum the company was equally vague posting, "Engineers have identified an issue in which a portion of capacity that facilitates connectivity to Exchange Online services has entered into a degraded state."

Microsoft has touted Office 365, which includes Outlook, as a way that clients can more easily share documents and messages online. It has added new features in response to the popularity of Google Docs.

The Post reported that on Tuesday many frustrated Microsoft users – who found it difficult to get work done – took the "free time" to vent on social media.

For its part Microsoft also used social media services, including Twitter, where it posted on the official Office 365 account: "Some Exchange customers are experiencing email delays, we are working to resolve, please see the SHD for service status."

However, this only created a central place for frustrated users to share their woes, with one user noting: "@Office365 And today is the day my company chose to migrate us to Office 365, only to have everything be down! Get it together guys!" Another posted: "Email has been down over 5 hours now, this is a service we PAY FOR. I'm continuing to forward to journalists."

Much of the frustration came from the fact that email is such a key component of the workplace. A study from the McKinsey Global Institute found that in 2012 the average American worker spent 28 percent of the day communicating via email.

"We take it for granted," Martin Irvine, founding director of Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture and Technology graduate program, told the Washington Post. "In an outage, it's like: 'Oh my God. You may have to do things the old-fashioned way!'"

Irvine added, "This technology seems so transparent until it breaks. E-mail is like a black box. We have no idea, from one end to the other, how things work. You see what goes out and what goes in. We may never know what happened — unless Microsoft tells us or a smart hacker gets involved."