On March 16 thousands of Australians working on the Microsoft cloud network had some unexpected downtime thanks to an outage that left them without access for nearly three hours. People using Microsoft Office 365, Hotmail, SkyDrive, and other Live cloud-based products felt the effects of this most recent outage. Microsoft cloud users found themselves unable to access inboxes during the outage, and some users even found their mailboxes had disappeared altogether.
During the outage, users who searched for answers only received them in the form of vague status updates through sources like Twitter. Some announcements were made that assured users the problems were fixed, even though they were not. Chris Jones, Microsoft’s senior vice president for Windows Live, first responded to the outage an hour after people began reporting it at 2:45 AEST. Jones tweeted that the Microsoft services were restored, but only an hour later he issued another announcement that customers were still reporting problems with their services. Throughout the day Microsoft tweeted about its investigation into the outage, citing DNS issues as the cause.
Microsoft also responded to customers complaints in a blog post by Bill Laing, the Microsoft corporate vice president of the server and cloud division. He wrote that there are three “truths” to cloud computing, continuing that “hardware fails, software has bugs and people make mistakes.” These three points may be true in some cases, especially for Microsoft, but other cloud service providers seem to overcome them quite fine. For example, Google does not use hardware that has a single point-of-failure for its Google Apps cloud platform. Moreover, Google regularly updates its software and makes information about any bugs available to the public on the Apps Status Dashboard. Most of all, Google Apps runs on a 99.9% uptime guarantee, a promise that Google always meets and regularly exceeds.
It’s true that everyone stumbles, but this isn’t Microsoft’s first, or even second, stumble. As reported by ZDNet, Microsoft’s most recent outage before this just occurred in February, affecting users of Microsoft CRM Online and Office 365. Microsoft has yet to offer customers a substantial number of outage-free months in a row, and this March downtime only cements the idea that Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud platform is a less reliable service than other cloud alternatives.
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