Microsoft BPOS users reporting e-mail delays (again)

A week after being hit hard by serious cloud e-mail problems, a number of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) users are reporting on May 19 that they're experiencing e-mail delays of up to an hour or more.

A week after being hit hard by serious cloud e-mail problems, a number of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) users are reporting on May 19 that they're experiencing e-mail delays of up to an hour or more.

Microsoft is acknowledging the problem. A spokesperson sent me the following update when I asked about today's issues:

“Microsoft is investigating reports of intermittent mail flow issues affecting Exchange Online users served from the Americas data center. We are publishing information to customers via our normal communication channels. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes our customers.”

(I'll update this information once Microsoft comes back to me with more.)

Update (4 pm ET on May 19): Reader @PatrickE34 sent the following update he received from Microsoft this afternoon: "BPOS update 3:56pm - Some messages are still queued on Transport Srvs but all new inbound/outbound are delivering "as expected."

Today's problem seems less sweeping and severe than last week's series of Exchange Online issues. In the Online Services forum on Microsoft's Web site, users have been reporting delays of anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour today in sending/receiving mail that is hosted by Microsoft via Exchange Online, one of the main components of Microsoft's cloud-hosted suite of business apps that competes with Google Apps.

The latest e-mail problems come after a three-plus-day e-mail disruption the week of May 9 that hit BPOS users in all geographies. A number of those affected with whom I spoke were angriest about Microsoft's failure to communicate in a timely fashion last week about what was going on with Exchange Online. Microsoft posted a detailed explanation and apology at the end of the third day of problems, and attributed the meltdown, in part, to "malformed e-mail traffic."

Earlier this week, on May 17, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Online Services Dave Thompson, provided some additional answers to BPOS users' questions about last week's hosted e-mail outage. Thompason acknowledged that Microsoft was aware that it had "not been timely enough with information," but that it "can be difficult to trade off timeliness against certainty and accuracy."

He also said that Microsoft would not -- as a number of BPOS users had requested -- be make the health-dashboard information on BPOS publicly available and would keep it password protected. Thompson said Microsoft is working on an updated customer-specific dashboard that will be available in six to eight weeks, and like the current dashboard would be available only to BPOS users and administrators.

Thompson added that Microsoft is adding more customer support lines to alleviate the switchboard overload that hit BPOS support last week. "But a better fix is to release more and timely information on the dashboard," he noted. Additionally, "to enable faster recovery time from backlogged message queues, we have already added and continue to add more hub server capacity and have deployed a software update to all datacenters to improve how BPOS handles malformed email messages."

Microsoft is expected to launch BPOS's successor, Office 365, early this summer, possibly in early June. A number of users with whom I've spoken said they believe Microsoft needs to prove that Office 365 is more reliable than BPOS in order to keep existing customers and attract new ones.

Update No. 2 (7:50 pm. ET on May 19): Microsoft says today's Exchange Online issue has been fully resolved. The statement from a BPOS spokesperson:

“On May 19, 2011,  beginning at 8:48 am PDT, some customers served from the Americas region began experiencing e-mail delays. Fewer than 1% of users were affected.  Mail flow returned to normal by 11:00 am PDT, however, a small percentage of emails remained queued on a server. The issue was fully resolved at 3:33 pm Pacific, with all message queues cleared. The service is now functioning normally. During the duration of the issue, customers were updated regularly via our normal communication channels. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident may have caused them.”

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