Microsoft’s Office 365 Outage Hits US Customers

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Microsoft’s Office 365 was hit by outages in North America but Europe and the Pacific Rim were not affected

Microsoft’s Office 365 in North America has experienced an outage of, as yet, unknown length.

“We apologise for the inconvenience that the [Office 365] outage has caused today. We’re are [sic] working on resolving the issue,” read an August 17 tweet posted at 3:30 EST (20:30 BST) on Microsoft’s cloud-services Twitter account.

Around 20 minutes later, Microsoft’s official Office 365 Twitter account posted: “Investigating service issues. Expect more service updates will be available via the Service Health Dashboard.”

Anger Of Inconvenienced Customers

Meanwhile, some Office 365 customers seemed less than pleased with the outage. “The Web interface is 503 error, our exchange clients are all offline,” read a typical post on one Office 365 forum. “Some of them have come back online, but it looks like they are the exception, not the rule.” Others also reported issues with accessing the platform’s service status page.

“Office in the Cloud just Evaporated,” wrote another on the same forum. “Need some new weather patterns.”

As of 5 p.m. EST (22:00 BST) on August 17, Microsoft spokespeople had yet to respond to eWEEK’s request for comment on what technical issues, if any, caused the problem and how many customers were affected.

At 5:30 p.m. EST (22:30 BST) Microsoft reported that the problem had been resolved. “Office 365 email service restored at 2:30PM PDT. Network issues resolved in North American Data Center. APAC/Europe not impacted,” the company tweeted.

Microsoft launched the final version of Office 365, its cloud-based productivity software, with a June event in New York City hosted by CEO Steve Ballmer. The platform links Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online into a platform that costs $2 to $27 per user per month. On top of that, Microsoft is offering an Office 365 Marketplace with productivity applications and professional services.

For several months, Microsoft has pushed an “all-in” cloud strategy centred on subscription products like Office 365. By embracing the industry-wide trend toward the cloud, the company hopes to diversify its revenue stream beyond desktop software such as Windows. Moreover, placing companies and consumers on a subscription model ultimately yields more revenue than a single copy of software, provided the customers in question keep paying for a sustained period of time.

Cloud Setbacks

The cloud comes with its own drawbacks, the most visible of which is the occasional downtime. No cloud architecture can guarantee 100 percent uptime, but companies try to bake enough redundancies into their systems to keep outages to a bare minimum. However, Microsoft’s predecessor to Office 365, BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), experienced the occasional downtime that affected customers for up to nine hours.

In the wake of the more recent BPOS crashes, executives suggested the issues affecting the platform would not come into play with Office 365. “O365 should provide more stable service,” read a June 22 tweet on the Official Microsoft Online Twitter feed. “It is built from the ground up new, and reports and expectations are very good.”

Nor is Microsoft’s cloud the only one affected. In April, a well-publicised outage at Amazon Web Services led to service disruptions across the Internet, affecting popular Websites, such as Reddit, Quora and Hootsuite. Google lost some of its users’ email data in February, and launched an aggressive effort at restoration. The possibility of at least one downtime is baked into cloud contracts; the growing question is: What happens with an outage so catastrophic that it results in data loss, or delays so lengthy they cause a client to lose revenue?

Even such incidents, though, do not seem to be dissuading businesses from believing in the ultimate benefits of the cloud. “Clouds will have downtime – it’s a fundamental issue,” Andi Mann, chief cloud strategy guru at CA Technologies, told eWEEK. “But you need to be ready for downtime, whether it’s your own infrastructure or cloud infrastructure. You need to understand what the risk is. It’s all just about risk management.”

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