Office 365 outage mystery

Email services for Office 365 and Exchange Online should now be resumed but Microsoft handled it really badly.

In Microsoft’s world, damage to sales is far worse than any failure to meet customers service needs. So on that score, Microsoft has done well for itself in the last day or so.

They had a major problem with delivery of emails to Exchange Online customers, but they managed the media end of it really well to reduce the marketing damage.

Mary Jo Foley did a sterling job monitoring this but most journalists seem to have accepted Microsoft’s bland assurances without question.

On the US morning of Tuesday 24th customers using Microsoft’s Exchange Online service (sometimes part of Office 365) found they could not login or that emails weren’t arriving.

This continued all the American day and we are now told the problem has been fixed. Only afterwards did Microsoft condescend to make a public comment:


“On Tuesday, June 24th, 2014, at approximately 6:30 AM EDT, some North American customers experienced email delays with Exchange Online. The issue has since been resolved and the service is now functioning normally. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident may have caused and continuously strive to improve our service and using these opportunities to drive even greater excellence in our service delivery.”

That statement is notable only for its late arrival and what it does NOT say. It gives no indication of how long the outage was, how many or which customers were affected.   No mention of honoring service guarantees given to customers.

Clearly Microsoft hadn’t been listening to the customers during the day because they continued to use the word ‘delays’ that had already been widely mocked on social media.

In our view, Microsoft actions are utterly reprehensible. They did not communicate properly with customers either with any detail of the problem nor did they say anything in a timely fashion. The Status page for Office 365 is now a standing joke since even a major problem like this doesn’t rate a mention.

We can only hope there is a proper in-house ‘post mortem’ on this debacle. One focus of that investigation is how to better and truthfully communicate with customers.


About the Service Dashboard

Microsoft’s sole Twitter message about the problem included the suggestion that customers go to their ‘SHD’

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Exchange%20Outage%20June%202014%20%20-%20single%20Twitter%20msg.png image from Office 365 outage mystery at Office-Watch.com

Apparently we all should know that ‘SHD’ means Service Dashboard at http://status.office365.com/

If you figure that out and go to the status page … chances are it won’t tell you anything. Forums, Twitter etc. are alight with reports from people who had problems with their email but the ‘SHD’ assured them there was no problem.

It’s understandable that any company would want to minimize their problems but Exchange Online is a vital service for the people and organizations who pay good money for it. They deserve hear the truth in a timely fashion.

Speaking of timely … the above Twitter message from the official Office 365 account is the only mention of the problem at all. Whatever you think of Twitter, it has become a ‘go to’ place for the latest information. A single cryptic message shows a dreadful attitude to customers.

And that message got the scorn it deserved from customers

“4 hours downtime is more than a delay”

“What is SHD? Email has been down for over 5 hours now. This is a service we PAY FOR”

“I will look forward to seeing the status changes an hour after they occur. Who are we kidding, they’re always green.”

“I just realized my phone hasn’t gotten it since 2 am. So 10 hours now”

“99.99% uptime when U never admit your down ;)”

“Nothing to see here people, move along… everything’s A-OK.”


Who was/is affected?

The breakdown affected Exchange Online, Microsoft’s hosted Exchange Server product. That service and other bundled products are usually sold under the Office 365 name.

Microsoft isn’t saying which customers were affected (lets face it they aren’t saying much of anything and seem to be hoping it’ll all just go away).

It seems that North American based servers for Exchange Online were affected, but that’s just based on the feedback from people affected.


What it was not.

Outlook.com was not affected.

Reports that ‘Outlook’ was broken were totally wrong. Outlook is the software you get as part of Microsoft Office – not a hosted cloud service.