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Microsoft Restores Another Exchange Online Outage

Customers of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) in the North American region experienced e-mail outages today that may have lasted three hours or so before service was restored.

Microsoft posted a notice at 10:22 a.m. today at its online service notifications feed that simply told BPOS users that a service alert was out. It referred users to a service health dashboard for more information, but the dashboard requires customer sign-up to access the details. However, a Microsoft forum page quickly filled with complaints over a three-hour time span describing connection problems with the Outlook e-mail client or the Outlook Web App.

Microsoft was a bit more talkative in two Twitter posts, but not by much. The first tweet indicated that Microsoft was "investigating alerts of email connectivity issues affecting Americas." The next message, which was posted within the same hour as the first, stated: "Service restored for BPOS. Customers reporting ability to access services. Dashboard updated."

BPOS is Microsoft's software-as-a-service collection of applications that is being supplanted by Office 365, which Microsoft launched last month. BPOS e-mail customers currently use an online version of Exchange 2007. By contrast, Office 365 users get access to online versions of the 2010-branded Microsoft technologies, including Exchange 2010. Apparently, the e-mail outage was confined just to BPOS users, although the details from Microsoft are lacking.

Current BPOS customers aren't automatically migrated to Office 365. They have a year's time to elect to make that move, if they wish to, Microsoft has explained. However, those who lag on moving don't get access Microsoft's latest technologies. Whether Office 365 customers were affected by the outage isn't clear.

Microsoft offers Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online services, both in BPOS and Office 365. Both BPOS and Office 365 come with a 99.9 percent uptime service level agreements (SLAs), amounting to an allowance for about 28 hours of outages in a year. However, Microsoft calculates its SLAs on a monthly basis, so a three-hour outage would likely trigger the terms of the SLA. There are no financial penalties under the SLA for Microsoft for any lost uptime, although companies could experience a financial hit from such disruptions. Instead, Microsoft provides a service credit to customers when their SLA uptime guarantees are breached.

Microsoft has had other Exchange Online outages this year. For instance, an Exchange Online outage in June lasted a few hours, with Microsoft pointing to defective hardware as the cause. In mid-May, Microsoft had another Exchange Online outage that lasted about six hours. That latter outage was associated with malformed e-mail traffic that caused a backlog of e-mails to build up.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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