Office 365 time zone hassles

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Office 365 mis-handles email read receipts and tracking with the Monrovia / Reykjavik time zone.

There’s an ongoing complaint about Office 365’s response to email read receipts and other email tracking.

When an Office 365 user asks for a read receipt, the receipt comes back with a time zone of ‘UTC Monrovia / Reykjavik’ not the readers local time nor the Office 365 users time nor even something like the time zone for the Office 365 servers location.

For example here’s an Office 365 users read receipt from a recipient in Australia:

Your message 
To:
Subject: Test
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012 9:08:27 PM (UTC) Monrovia, Reykjavik
was read on Monday, February 13, 2012 9:07:50 PM (UTC) Monrovia, Reykjavik.

 

Both places have the same time zone settings and are top of the time zone list in Windows, which is why it shows up as the default. Reykjavik is a nice place (great soft serve ice-cream) but it’s nowhere near where the sender or recipient are located. Monrovia is the capital of Liberia on the west coast of Africa (not the one in California).

 

Depending on who you ask, this is either a bug or Office 365 acting ‘as expected’. Naturally Microsoft staff will tell you there’s no problem.

To paying customers it’s a bug and worse, a bug with no fix.

There is false hope given with a time zone change to Outlook Web Apps but that doesn’t fix the email tracking bug.

The problem is in the design of Exchange Server. Office 365 runs Exchange Server in what Microsoft calls a ‘multi-tenanted’ environment meaning the one server handles email for many separate organizations. This is a change from the way Exchange Server was originally designed and developed for many years; i.e. under the presumption that each server handled a single organization. The consequences of change to multi-tenant use hasn’t been fully handled by Microsoft. It seems Exchange Server relies on the time zone setting of the server with no ability for the organization/tenant to customize that.

Now a single Exchange Server can process messages for different organizations in a range of time zones but Microsoft hasn’t added all the necessary features to cope.  It’s an example of Microsoft curious but long-standing corporate reluctance to deal with time zone related matters.

Since this may be a deep-seated issue in Exchange Server it might not be changed very quickly and even then it will be reluctantly done by Microsoft.

All an Office 365 user can do is complain to Microsoft then wait, hope someone will read the complaints and take action.

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