Yet Another Exchange Service Outage from Microsoft

North American BPOS customers suffered e-mail outages today of up to three hours before service was restored.

Customers of Microsoft's SaaS collection of applications -- Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) -- in North American suffered e-mail outages today of up to three hours before the service was back online.

Microsoft posted a notice at 10:22 a.m. today at its online service notifications feed that explained to BPOS users that a service alert had been issued. The notice referred users to a service health dashboard for more information, but the dashboard requires customer sign-up to access the details. A Microsoft forum page was filled with complaints over a three-hour period; users described connection problems with the Outlook e-mail client or Web app.

Microsoft offered little additional information in two Twitter posts. The first tweet indicated that Microsoft was "investigating alerts of email connectivity issues affecting Americas." The next message, posted within an hour of the first, stated: "Service restored for BPOS. Customers reporting ability to access services. Dashboard updated."

BPOS is being replaced 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. The e-mail outage was confined to BPOS users, although details from Microsoft are lacking.

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

Microsoft offers Exchange Online, Lync Online, and SharePoint Online services, in both BPOS and Office 365. Both BPOS and Office 365 come with a 99.9 percent uptime service-level agreement (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.