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."
Here's a step-by-step plan to mesh IT goals with business and customer objectives and, critically, measure your initiatives to ensure that the business is successful. Get the How To Tie Tech Innovation To Business Strategy report today (registration required).