Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

Summary: Microsoft's Hotmail, Office 365, and other Internet services failed earlier today thanks to a DNS problem. Microsoft has since corrected this Internet outage.

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This has not been a good month for the Internet's core address system: the Domain Name System (DNS). First, there was a man-in-the-middle attack on numerous Web site users caused by a Turkish cracker. Now, according to Microsoft, many of its online services were disabled by a DNS failure.

At first, some people thought this collapse of Office 365, Hotmail, SkyDrive, and other Windows Live programs might be due to problems with Windows Azure cloud or other Windows server problems. It quickly became apparent though that it was a DNS problem.

Microsoft's senior vice president for Windows Live, Chris Jones, has been keeping users up to date on how the company is handling the problem on the Inside Windows Live blog. By 12:45 AM Eastern time, Jones reported that "We believe we have restored service for all customers at this time. We will continue our investigation into the root cause of these issues and post an update following our investigation. Again we appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience."

While an easy fix, it wasn't an instant fix. At that time, Microsoft had only corrected its DNS problem with their master DNS servers.

As Jones went on to explain to puzzled users, "We're aware of reports including the comments posted below that some customers still are seeing issues. We are working on propagating the DNS configuration changes and so it will take some time to restore service to everyone. Again we appreciate your patience."

Jones was describing was the result of DNS' distributed design. That is, while DNS is a world-wide system, it doesn't have a single master control that allows a change to be made across the globe in seconds. Instead it takes hours for a DNS change, even from a company the size of Microsoft or Google, to reach all the other DNS servers. Thus, so long as the DNS server you use for all your Web addressing needs still had the wrong Windows Live services address information in it, your Web browser or application couldn't easily reach Microsoft's services.

By 2:49 AM, Jones reported that "We have completed propagating our DNS configuration changes around the world, and have restored service for most customers. Depending on your location you may still experience issues over the next 30 minutes as the changes make their way through the network." A quick check with my thousands of Twitter and Google+ friends around the world at 10:45 AM Eastern time reveals that everyone, in my circles at least, were now able to reach Microsoft's online services.

So what happened? We don't know yet. It could have been a cracker getting into Microsoft's own DNS servers and making an unauthorized change. It might have been simply a blunder at Microsoft by a network administrator.

What we do know though is that ,even as we use the Internet more and more for our daily work, the fragility of its fundamental infrastructure is becoming ever more painfully clear.

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Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Networking, Windows

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14 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

    It was indeed DNS issue. I tried accessing my hotmail, it did not work, but I tried to access my email by logging through skydrive and it worked. Anyway, it is up now.
    animageofmine1
  • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

    Wasn't it "the Microsoft's DNS" failure instead of just "a DNS" failure?
    S P Arif Sahari Wibowo - http://www.arifsaha.com/
  • Journalism?

    More flamebait from SJVN, with no mention of other sites experiencing DNS issues this week. Did you mention the Technorati issue?

    hmmm, when are you going to write about the Google Apps failure this week? non-DNS related to boot. That would be journalism.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

      @facebook@... You now I think it's funny. But no one - I will have to go back and look I could be wrong - wrote about Google outage. We were down for over an hour. And we had executives giving a Presentation using Google Docs - OOOPS!
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • that's the funny thing

        @ItsTheBottomLine <br>nobody seems to notice it, beside a few MS fanboys using Google Docs!<br>just for the fun, I went to Bing trying to find the info, nada, zip, nill. Sure it must be a Bing issue...
        theo_durcan
    • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

      @facebook@... <br><br>You mentioned Techorati issue, job done. Stick with topic presented.

      You need another topic to be written then write it on your own blog, folks will follow if good.

      Steven, great article.

      Hooah!
      daikon
    • Facebook@,

      since you seem to feel a great need for yet another article on a recent outage of some of Google's services - I have read several - why don't you publish one on your own Facebook site ? Or is it rather the case that your respect for Steven's journalism is so great that you can't quite believe that the MS outage actually occured until he confirms it, preferable in an article dealing with an entirely different provider of online services ?...

      Henri
      mhenriday
    • Facebook@

      Apologies for double-posting...

      Henri
      mhenriday
    • Facebook@

      -"-
      mhenriday
  • Been there done that ...

    ..., if you need to run DNS, run Linux.
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      Tell that to netnames. Heck, we do not even know the full extent that kernel.org was compromised.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

        @facebook@...

        Microsoft has an issue with there DNS system, that is the topic.
        Linux has nothing to do with a web site kernel.org. The same as Microsoft dumped from Dow Jones 'green' list, $8 billion at risk

        Hooah!
        daikon
  • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols -
    I know this shatters your faith and religion a little but - where is your article about Googles outage?
    ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Microsoft's online services briefly go dark

      @ItsTheBottomLine

      You need an article about Google, write it folks may follow.
      daikon