Three-day Aussie breakdown of Outlook.com

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Over Easter there was a three day serious breakdown in Outlook.com for Australian users among many.

The problems were first acknowledged by Microsoft about 1pm Sydney time on Saturday 11 April and continued for around three days!  Mostly Aussies were affected with pockets of trouble in Europe and USA.

A three-day outage is bad at any time but especially bad during these ‘interesting’ times.

The problem affected all ways to access Outlook.com email, web browser, ActiveSync via Outlook software, IMAP, horse & cart or whatever.

That’s a shame because often an email outage only affects one connection method (usually web browser) and savvy people workaround the problem.

What happened?

According to Microsoft, it was a DNS or networking problem.  Trying to connect with outlook.com was sending some people to the wrong sites or none!

(Modern DNS is complicated because the same domain name can be routed to different servers depending on your location and demand on the server farms.)

The company said it was “testing alternative workaround and resolution options to provide relief for our affected users.”

Why it took three days to fix the problem hasn’t been explained.  It’s a long, long time for a total outage and hard to believe there wasn’t some better interim fix possible.

We hope Microsoft will do more than their bland statements indicate.  This problem demonstrates a big hole in their cloud service reliability that needs fixing as well as improving their responsiveness to connection problems.

Last we heard from Microsoft is the usual weasel words. ‘Third-party’ is an attempt to blame others. ‘May still experience’ and ‘intermittent’; another attempt to downplay the size and severity of the outage.

“ We’re working with the third-party ISP to gather further logs and systems data to identify the root cause of the issue and determine a permanent fix. While we have confirmed that there are improvements with the service some users may still experience intermittent impact in accessing or logging into Outlook.com in the Australia region. We will continue to monitor the service for signs of impact while we work towards a permanent fix.”

Kudos to Bleeping Computer kept a good eye on this problem over Easter.

What could you do?

Savvy users might have been able to connect by using a VPN connection via a different continent (North America, Europe etc) in the hope that the DNS would resolve correctly.  That’s assuming you know that it’s a DNS problem from the little information Microsoft was providing.

 

Though the problem has been fixed, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another breakdown in your primary email service (Outlook.com, Gmail whatever).

Our standard recommendations apply, ‘Be Prepared …’

  • Always have a totally separate email connection / address available. At least you’ll be able to send and receive emails.
  • Consider & setup alternative communication methods like instant messaging.
  • Use Outlook software to keep on your computer a fully synchronized copy of your entire mailbox. The Outlook for Windows default is only the last year. That means you’ll always be able to search and read past emails even if the Internet lets you down.

Prepare your computer for isolation or quarantine

Prepare for Microsoft Office 365 email outage

Get an emergency, backup email account

Do you have your tech ‘eggs’ in different ‘baskets’?

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