Microsoft 365 offline! What happened and what you should do

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Microsoft 365 suffered a major outage of their online and cloud services.  Here’s what we know, where we stand now and how to reduce your risk of trouble with future problems.

The online services from Microsoft could not be accessed from about 5pm Monday (US Eastern) that included Office logins, Outlook/Hotmail, Teams and more.  It seems anything requiring a Microsoft account login.

The outage was global and lasted at least 4 hours, probably more.  After four hours of problems Microsoft said that “most users should be experiencing relief.” which is, perhaps, an unfortunate choice of words.

Not all customers were affected because, as we’ll see, it was a login problem.  If your computer was connected before the troubles began then you probably didn’t notice anything and kept on working.

What happened?

Microsoft isn’t saying much but it seems to be an authentication or login problem. 

This has happened before for Microsoft and other cloud services.  The actual systems (mail hosting, cloud storage etc) are working fine but customers can’t access them because the login system is broken and won’t allow access.

That’s why some customers didn’t have any problem.  Their computers were already authenticated for Office, OneDrive etc and so they could access the services.

Only if authentication (or renewed login) was required that customers were blocked.

That’s still bad, very bad, but explains why some Microsoft 365 customers had trouble while others did not.

According to Microsoft, the login problem is fixed.  Microsoft 365 services should now be accessible.

If not, try closing the affected software/app and restarting. At worst, restart your Windows or Mac computer.

Reduce your risk

Any cloud service can go offline.  It’s happened before to all the major online providers, not just Microsoft.  Preparing for cloud outages is something we all should do.  The preventative measures are quite simple.

(We apologize to long-time Office Watch readers who have read this advice many times before <sigh>).

Keep a copy on your computer

The idea of saving everything to the cloud only sounds great until something goes wrong.  It’s much wiser to synchronize all folders (or at least anything important) to your computer.

If there’s a problem with the cloud service, you have a copy of all the documents and files saved on your computer.  You can use those up-to-date copies until online service is restored.

Of course, online collaboration on documents isn’t possible.

OneDrive for Windows and Mac lets you choose which folders to keep synchronized with your computer. 

Outlook for Windows lets you choose the mailboxes or folders to synchronize with a local PST/OST file.  Also the age of past messages to retain on the computer (we recommend changing the setting to All).

Outlook for Mac will always synchronize Exchange Server/Outlook.com mailboxes to the computer.

An alternative mailbox

Always have a second mail account, from a different supplier, ready to use if your main account won’t work.

If your main mailbox is Microsoft hosted, have a Gmail account setup on the side.  Or vice-versa.

At least then you can communicate with people, share documents etc, until the main mailbox is working again.

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