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6/24/2014
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Microsoft Exchange Online Suffers Service Outage

Service disruptions with Microsoft's Exchange Online left many companies with no email on Tuesday.

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Microsoft's Exchange Online hosted email service suffered a disruption Tuesday morning, leaving many users without email for much of the morning. As of 1 p.m. EST, some customers were reporting service had been restored, though others expressed dissatisfaction in an Office 365 forum at Microsoft's handling of the situation.

Users began reporting the outage early Tuesday morning. "Some Exchange customers are experiencing email delays. Our engineering team is actively working to resolve this issue. We recommend customers visit the service health dashboard for real-time updates," a Microsoft spokesperson told InformationWeek.

[Microsoft VP predicts the cloud will evolve into just a few big players. Read more from the Structure conference: Cloud Trends To Watch: Structure 2014.]

Microsoft declined to answer questions about the problem's origin, or about when Exchange Online, which is available as both a standalone product and as part of Office 365 bundles, would be fully restored. It's not clear how many customers or geographies were affected by Tuesday's cloud outage, which came a day after a limited Lync Online outage that Microsoft blamed on "network routing infrastructure issues."

When customer concerns began streaming in Tuesday morning, Microsoft initially acknowledged the situation via social media and the aforementioned forum thread. The company offered no explanation for the problem, nor did it estimate when services would be up and running. Many Office 365 forum users criticized the company for offering oblique status updates and failing to immediately confirm the problem through more visible channels, such as the Microsoft Online Service portal or the Office 365 blog. Customers on both Twitter and the Office 365 forum complained that their businesses had gone all morning without email access.

In the Office 365 forum thread, Microsoft support representative David Zhang confirmed that the Exchange Online services failed to be accessed by some customers. He said the company was investigating but did not yet have enough information to diagnose the problem.

The response attracted criticism from many forum users, especially as more customers began reporting problems. Some said that the Exchange portal showed no health errors, even though the service was broken. Others reported connection errors. Several people said the Exchange admin status page indicated Microsoft engineers had "identified an issue in which a portion of capacity that facilitates connectivity to Exchange Online services has entered into a degraded state."

Zhang's subsequent postings reiterated the admin status page's message but did not provide additional details. Many of Microsoft's social media responses, meanwhile, directed customers to the Office 365 thread with Zhang's comments. Others reiterated that the company was working on a solution and suggested that customers consult Microsoft's Service Health Dashboard in the meantime. Some customers, as noted above, said dashboards are not displaying accurate information.

Some forum users cautioned that Microsoft will need time to determine the nature of the problem, but many others were irritated by the company's vague explanations. Several complained that they waited on hold for more than an hour while trying to contact Exchange support via phone, only to be given no additional information.

"Microsoft needs to work more with us. IT people are getting crazy without having [anything] to tell our users," wrote a user with the handle JanetsyLeandro. "We need a real update ... [It's] causing a big problem to our business."

By early afternoon, some customers reported that they'd been told service would be restored in two to three hours. Around 1 p.m. EST, Exchange was working again for at least some customers, though some complained that the service was slow. Others, however, continued to encounter errors.

Update from Microsoft: "On Tuesday, June 24th, 2014, at approximately 6:30 AM EDT, some North American customers experienced email delays with Exchange Online. The issue has since been resolved and the service is now functioning normally."

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2014 | 8:12:06 PM
How transparent is your cloud provider?
Nice blow by blow description, by Michael Endler. Microsoft may be as opaque as Amazon and other cloud vendors during the period of uncertainty when the issue is being trouble shot and resolved. "Transparency" is an extremely fleeting goal, when the provider isn't sure what the problem is. In the past, once they've figured it out, Microsoft has been frank about what problem was. This is an ongoing issue -- how transparent is your cloud provider when the chips are down? Answers are still out.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2014 | 7:22:58 PM
Service Restored
Update: Microsoft says the issue has been resolved and issued the following statement: “On Tuesday, June 24th, 2014, at approximately 6:30 AM EDT, some North American customers experienced email delays with Exchange Online. The issue has since been resolved and the service is now functioning normally. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident may have caused and continuously strive to improve our service and use these opportunities to drive even greater excellence in our service delivery.”
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 6:41:52 PM
Re: O365: What a mess!
It's funny that we use 365 and not one complaint yesterday. the only thing I noticed was MS Lync was up and down all day yesterday... but email was fine.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2014 | 6:40:27 PM
Re: Horrible support is a Microsoft hallmark
Office 365 has had a number of outages since we have used it. I agree that thier support isn't great for Office 365.

I have had luck with thier support for other products though. SCCM being one of them.
RickF410
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RickF410,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 5:21:29 PM
Horrible support is a Microsoft hallmark
Having dealt with Microsofts "support" before, this is not much of a surprise to me. They don't do phone support and prefer that customers use an antiquated message platform that looks like it was designed badly in the 90's. Worst. Support. Ever!


And I guess that's just fine with their new CEO, apparently. One of these days, maytbe some brave soul will ask him face to face in a public forum why they treat their customers so badly.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2014 | 5:05:16 PM
Re: O365: What a mess!
Thanks for sharing your experience. Quite a wait.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2014 | 5:03:46 PM
Were you affected?
Were you affected by the Exchange outage? Let's hear from you.
therealarod1984
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therealarod1984,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 5:02:12 PM
O365: What a mess!
Got an alert from our SMTP monitoring tools about 9am CST.  Called Microsoft by 9:15 when it was apparent our equipment was not at fault.  A half hour on hold, followed by a half hour of a tech trying to tell me it was my equipment or the sender fault.  When I would not give in, finally the tone changed, as the Tech then started communicating that he was hearing other customers with a problem.  By 10:30 I had an open ticket.  Two requests for updates were never answered at 12:00 and 1:00pm.  Issues finally resolved around 3:30pm with the following post on O365 "Current Status: Engineers have mitigated impact by rerouting traffic away from the degraded capacity. Mail flow is now improving, and customers will begin to see service recovery as messages are being delivered and email queues drain." 
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