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Microsoft's Consumer Skype Service Goes Down for 12 Hours

Skype, Microsoft's consumer voice and video calling service, went down today.

This afternoon, Microsoft indicated via a Twitter post that it had found the problem and was "rectifying" it and transitioning its customers back online. Skype users anecdotally had been reporting log-in problems and being unable to contact other Skype users who were shown as being offline.

According to Downdetector.com, the issue began at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Time (4:23 a.m. Eastern Time) and lasted about 12 hours, with most people reporting log-in problems. A map of the outage produced by Downdetector showed outage concentrations in Western Europe and the U.S. East Coast, along with Japan.

Microsoft offered few details about the Skype outage, although it indicated that only its consumer users were affected, not Skype for Business users.

"We have identified the network issue which prevented users from logging in and using Skype today," Microsoft indicated in a blog post. "We're in the process of reconnecting our users, and focused on restoring full service. The issue did not affect Skype for Business users."

The outage likely affected millions of users. Microsoft has described Skype as being used by 300 million worldwide in ad blurb, per January 2013 stats. Microsoft acquired the consumer Skype service for about $8.5 billion in 2011 but it also offers a commercial Skype for Business Online service and a Skype for Business Server product.

Consumer Skype services are offered in free and paid plans, whereas the commercial Skype for Business Online service comes with a 99.9 percent service level agreement (SLA) tied to a subscription plan. That 99.9 percent SLA amounts to an assurance of an average of eight hours of downtime per year, which was completely blown, in theory, today for the consumer service. The consumer service actually isn't covered by an SLA. As part of the Skype consumer services agreement, consumers must accept "occasional disruptions and outages" when using Skype.

However, because Microsoft used the same Skype name for its consumer service and its business service, such consumer outages don't have a good publicity effect, noted Scott Gode, vice president of product marketing at Unify Square.

"Microsoft is certainly incented, even if the SLAs are different, to do just as good a job with the consumer version as they would be for the Skype for Business version," Gode said in a phone interview today. "Not necessarily because there's going to be some huge financial penalty if the Skype for consumer service goes down, but simply because of what we saw today in the media. Because Microsoft made the decision to keep the names the same between the business and consumer services, if something bad or seemingly bad happens with the consumer service, it's going to have a carry-on effect to the business service."

Unify Square makes management and monitoring tools for Skype for business. Microsoft currently provides Skype for Business outage reports through a customer portal to its business subscribers. However, future Skype for Business releases will have better API hooks for third-party monitoring tools to use, according to Gode.

"Today, across the board, the hooks that Microsoft provides for companies or third-party partners, such as ourselves, to plug our monitoring software into Skype for Business Online are minimal, but there are things that Microsoft is in the process of doing that will enable greater visibility into that Skype for Business Online platform," Gode said. "And some of the releases we're coming out with at the end of this year and early next will leverage that -- to allow somebody who's an IT person running both on-premises and online Skype to get a single pane-of-glass view."

About the Author

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

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