Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

Summary: On September 7, I began receiving notes from several customers of Microsoft's hosted Online Services -- which include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Communications Online, Live Meeting and the BPOS bundle of these services -- of new and troubling access problems.


My post late last week about unplanned downtime for Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) seemingly has opened the floodgates for more similar reports.

On September 7, I began receiving notes from several customers of Microsoft's hosted Online Services -- which include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Communications Online, Live Meeting and the BPOS bundle of these services -- of yet more access problems.

Today's outage, which several users have told me is still ongoing (at 6:30 p.m. ET) after at least three hours, seems to be related to Exchange Online, Microsoft's hosted version of Exchange Server.

"We are currently experiencing an Exchange online outage. It started around 3:30PM EST today and as of this moment is still on going," said one IT user who contacted me and requested anonymity.

This user said his organization switched to BPOS three months ago and have experienced three outages since signing up. (One of these was in late August, one in early September and one today.)

"So far our BPOS experience has been somewhat frustrating and I am hoping Microsoft gets their act together soon," the customer added.

I've asked Microsoft what's causing the recent spate of Online Services outages and was told late last week that an unspecified network issue was at fault. I asked again today for further details and have received no information so far.

Microsoft officials notified North American customers on September 7 that the company was experiencing possible limited service for its Microsoft-hosted services earlier today, but said problems were resolved as of 1 p.m. (not sure which time zone). At 4:30, Microsoft sent customers another note telling them the same services had been restored.

Update: Not too many more details, but this just in from a Microsoft spokesperson:

“We experienced two brief service issues today affecting a portion of users in North America. From 8:40am– 9:05am PST, and then at 1:50pm for about 15 minutes, some users may have experienced slower network connectivity, which mostly affected the sign-In service. Network performance is now back to normal, and the root cause is under investigation. We have updated our customers about this issue and apologize for any inconvenience this incident may have caused them.

"We consistently look for ways to improve service reliability and recovery. We have a dedicated team taking a closer look at everything from hardware, to upgrade plans, to forensic data and increased monitoring. We take our responsibility to provide 24/7 access to customer data seriously, and we are dedicating necessary resources to fulfill that responsibility.”

Microsoft has scheduled maintenance for Exchange Online and SharePoint Online in North America this coming Saturday, September 11. The planned maintenance period begins at 4 a.m. GMT and may last through 10 p.m. GMT, company officials have told customers.

One of my readers who has helped his customers with Microsoft's Online Services claims that the late August outage may have been due to someone at Microsoft misconfiguring a switch. The reader said the early September outage was caused by "a misconfiguration of the switch fabric for Exchange," which is the crux of a number of Microsoft's other cloud pieces, he added.

"The idea of a cloud architecture being unreliable is both (a) contradictory and (b) common," noted that reader, who asked not to be identified.

As I noted late last week, I, too, know cloud services outages are common -- and not just in Microsoft's case. Because this blog is "All About Microsoft," I am focusing on Microsoft's infrastructure and how it affects its customers.

Anyone else hit by the latest Microsoft cloud-service outage and hearing any possible explanations as to what's going on?

Topics: Collaboration, CXO, Microsoft, Outage


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

    I don't use their services yet but I wouldn't sweat it. Almost every server has gone down at one time or another. In this case it seems like it was minimal downtime for those affected. The best part is Microsoft's SLA, if they don't meet it then they have to pay up. I think what we experienced here was more of a mob mentality than a number of users being affected. One guy says he can't connect, another who has a terrible internet connection to begin with can't connect not because the server is down but because his internet is down. I've seen it happen dozens of times.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Of course you have...

      every time it happened to Google's online services, during which you whined like a six year old girl with a skinned knee about how shoddy and unprofessional the service was. We heard you all dozen of those times you saw it happen.
      • And just to head off the feigned ignorance...;1_69560_1330663 "They should be embarrassed about it rather than you trying to write it off as a learning experience. ";1_64598_1202324 "They have consistently neglected Google's services and would rather sit around playing with office toys all day rather than trying to build a stable service.";1_64563_1201352 "This is a huge black eye for Google."
      • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems


        Simply awesome! You think so highly of me you actually went back to my posts and quote me. My fan club gets bigger and bigger every day. I rock!
        Loverock Davidson
      • I just headed off...

        the claims of innocence that would have come had I not provided proof up front that you bash other companies for this very same thing but when it comes to Microsoft then anyone who dares speak out is exhibiting nothing more than, and I quote, "mob mentality". Pot, meet kettle.
      • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

        No dude, its because you think so highly of me. You think so highly of me that you went back and searched specifically for me, then decided to share my very insightful posts with the rest of the world. Thank you, I appreciate that and keep getting the word out. :)

        Oh and this is different than what Google experienced.
        Loverock Davidson
      • Comparing Microsoft to Google


        What is Google's SLA again?
      • Pownd!

        Sorry, but it's true.
      • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

        @jasonp@... Simply awesome! You think so highly of me you actually went back to my posts and quote me. My fan club gets bigger and bigger every day. I rock!

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    • Come on....

      @Loverock Davidson- You must work at some 10 user company (or for the Microsoft BPOS Team). Try telling an enterprise customer "not to sweat it" Sorry Mr. CEO, just dont sweat your email, SharePoint, and OCS being down, orders not being processed, and customer service reps sitting idle without access to their data. "every server goes down at one time or another". <br><br>Your completely wrong about the SLA- Microsoft doesnt provide the reports on SLA, it's up to the customer to PROVE their outage, not sure how they do that without any uptime reports! Face the facts and admit the BPOS platform cant fail to other datacenters during outages, cant fail to passive nodes WITHIN the same datacenter during outages, can't provide detailed SLA's, and simply isnt ready for the enterprise. Maybe the small firms you work with are delighted being down, but my bet is most are looking for a way out.
      • Well, compared to Google...


        ...who has had their [i]own[/i] outages, and lately has had their own snafu's with migrations (City of LA), Microsoft's batting average is about on par.

        Imagine telling a CIO about a past due migration, "our initial timeline was June 30...revised timeline was mid-August...ok, we've got 36 out of 40 depts. converted...this should be done by mid-fall" and expect that go over.

        At least one of Microsoft's techs hasn't answered an IM, giving access to some kid in China.

        But you do make a point: if access to data is critical, the cloud is not an option, because the first time (and time after that, etc.) it goes down, nobody gives a d@mn how much money is being saved.
    • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

      @Loverock Davidson

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  • Worried about having recently switched to Microsoft Online

    I recently migrated all of our mailboxes from an internal exchange 2007 server, to Microsoft Online services. I have had a few issues along the way starting with Migration issues (which I solved using a third party site called Migrationwiz) and now server outages as mentioned above. Today's outage started around 3:30PM EST and was still ongoing as I left the office at 4:30PM. I thought switching to the 'cloud' would be more reliable considering Microsoft has had hotmail running reliably for years, but it's not so far, if this continues I'm going to consider an alternative (maybe Google Apps?). I also recently discovered that I cannot autoforward emails to any external contacts outside my organization, this is apparenty in place to prevent spammers from having the Microsoft servers blacklisted, but again a major upset for our organization as we autoforward many email reports to our partner companies. Technical support at Microsoft has also been poor and has taken sometimes over a week to receive a response. I have actually taught one of the level 2 support personnel how to allow a user access to a shared mailbox, I would expect them to know how to perform such a simple task, I actually found the solution through a google search while on hold for 10 minutes. And good thing I did, because when the fellow came back on the line, he said he wasn't sure if this was supported...they do however speak clear english, they just don't have a good understanding of the product at level 1 and 2, based on my experience in dealing with them.
    • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

      @dishdoctor2003 We moved to BPOS probably 6-8 months ago and I'm very happy with it. I did notice the outage today, but it only lasted maybe 5 minutes (for me) and that's only because I was Send/Receiving for a period waiting for a specific email.

      Many of my coworkers have been *very* happy with the iPhone sync.
    • Upgrade problems seem to abound...

      just moving to Exchange 2007. The migration at the company I'm currently at took five attempts to get it completed. Migrating all the mailboxes took three days, and we're talking less than 120 mailboxes and a 13 GB database. This is an engineering company, so the bulk of the database size would be attributable SolidWorks and AutoCad file attachments...nothing unreasonable or out of the ordinary. I couldn't imagine trying to use Microsoft Online Services in this environment.
      • Sounds like you have a bunch of amatuers doing the work.

        @jasonp@...: [i]Migrating all the mailboxes took three days, and we're talking less than 120 mailboxes and a 13 GB database.[/i]

        That is unless the bulk of that 3 days was planning and testing (Which I'll assume it wasn't).
      • No Surprise

        Exchange is not reliable, scalable, or worth anything. It was never meant to be anything other than a Small Office system. Sadly MS tried giving it enterprise class features yet it is still an abject failure.

        Large corporations spend billions on servers, upkeep and other junk to keep the POS known as Exchange barely functional. They need tons of servers, storage, and prayers to make it work.

        When it doesn't work (often) it's a nightmare.

        Best to plan to migrate OFF Exchange.
    • Get off the POS called Exchange


      Problem Solved. Exchange is a POS no matter if you host it or you farm it out.
      • Responds the phoney it individual

        @itguy08, I am curious as to why you persist to post such illogical nonsense?

        Do you believe you are taken seriously?
        Tim Cook
    • RE: Microsoft Exchange Online users reporting more cloud access problems

      @dishdoctor2003 and others...

      As I've mentioned a million times or more, the cloud is unreliable. Between server issues, network issues and id10t issues there will still be issues. I admire Microsoft for taking the leap and making the attempt and they will iron out any issues. Google with the lack of phone support as well with their playschool kids half a**ed email/docs setup go for it. With the lack of productivity your company will sink and you with it. Sounds like a bargain?

      The world is an imperfect place with imperfect people and imperfect creation. If you cannot accept that then you will never find satisfaction in this world.