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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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pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 6:07:16 PM
Re: How transparent is your cloud provider?
I know, because I've done both. But there's a middle ground. It just changes depending on the organization & industry your in. Finding that middle ground is the hard part.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
6/28/2014 | 6:11:08 AM
Re: Microsoft should account for the service outage
Microsoft's Exchange Online hosted email service suffered a disruption Tuesday morning, leaving many users without email for much of the morning. Some Exchange customers are experiencing email delays and Microsoft declined to answer questions about the problem's origin. From a user's point, you honestly don't want to truly know what the issue is, you just want it fixed. From the provider standpoint, you just want to know if there's ways to avoid the issue and should it happen again, what's the quickest path to resolution. MSFT staff should do their best to have an up to date applications so people can possibly resolve issues themselves.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/25/2014 | 3:49:15 PM
Re: How Transparent is YOUR IT Operation?
Good point Number 6. Users expectations of transparency will be shaped by consumer cloud services that do a good job of being transparent about outages.
Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
6/25/2014 | 3:19:15 PM
Re: How transparent is your cloud provider?
It is a huge balancing act of finding solutions while appeasing the user base. Obviously, as a user, you want things to be fixed and be over and done with. But if you're on the other side of the fence, solving a problem is not as straightforward because there are processes and steps to take before, during, and after.
Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
6/25/2014 | 3:17:22 PM
Re: How Transparent is YOUR IT Operation?
When everything is running smoothly and it's all peachy, it's easy. But when problems arise and you, along with your team, have to come up with a solution to resolve it, then that's when you are able to see just how good your system is or if it's lacking.
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
6/25/2014 | 10:10:44 AM
How Transparent is YOUR IT Operation?
A "teachable moment" -- How accessible and informative is your own operation when you're dealing with a problem and your company's employees want to know what's going on?
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 9:31:22 PM
Re: How transparent is your cloud provider?
I've seen this from both sides of the fence, both user and integrator. From an end user standpoint, you honestly don't want to truly know what the issue is, you just want it fixed. From the provider standpoint, you just want to know if there's ways to avoid the issue & should it happen again, what's the quickest path to resolution. So it's all about MSFT managing those expectations correctly & doing their best to have an up to date KB so people can possibly 'resolve' issues themselves.
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