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MSN says mail has arrived

Microsoft Network replaces its mail servers in hopes of solving persistent email problems.

Microsoft Network replaced its 9 mail servers with 18 new ones over the weekend in hopes of solving persistent email problems.

The online service said today the upgrade was completed successfully by yesterday afternoon. All servers were up on Saturday and all queued email messages to and from the 2.2 million MSN members worldwide were sent yesterday, it said.

MSN had planned to make the switch in three weeks. As previously reported by CNET NEWS.COM, the company decided to make the move earlier after suffering server outages last week.

While the delay angered some customers, product manager Jessica Ostrow believes that customers will think a system free of glitches will be worth the wait. The email server swap will not affect other MSN services, she said Friday.

Microsoft says customers are being informed of the outage through several areas on the service. But apparently not everyone got the message. Members writing on MSN's bulletin boards were confused last week, wondering why their email was not going through.

"It is very important I contact someone by Friday by email and it is stuck in my out box," wrote one user. "Why is email always down? In two months, it hasn't worked but two days for me."

Others used email accounts at other Internet service providers to write NEWS.COM complaining about MSN's constant problems and say they thought MSN would lose members over this planned outage. One person, writing on MSN's internal bulletin boards from England, said he had forms to sign up with another ISP.

Still, Ostrow said customers calling about the outage generally understood the situation and were glad that MSN was dealing with the problem.

"Everyone calling in is pretty satisfied with what our plan is. Most of the customers we've talked to are very satisfied to know we are doubling our capacity and addressing the issue."

MSN has had difficulties with its email servers for several months. Two servers that deliver mail to customers with names beginning with the letters C, D, and E, as well as T through Z, have had intermittent problems since last Monday.

Ostrow said MSN fixed the problems temporarily and delivered most of the mail. But some was left on the servers. Everyone will eventually get their mail, but it could take several days.

Ostrow added that even though the servers were fixed, the solution was only temporary. MSN managers held a meeting and decided that instead of trying to continually fix faulty servers, they would install the new ones.

"We had planned to do an email upgrade in about three weeks to double our capacity," Ostrow said. "Instead of letting these problems persist over next three weeks, we want to attack them right now."

MSN isn't the only one with email problems. Its primary competitor, America Online, still hasn't fully recovered from a recent email spike. And IBM's Internet service reported problems this weekend when a mail network in Southern California went down for more than 24 hours.

Ostrow said she's not surprised by the problems. "Across the industry we're seeing lot of different networks experiencing email difficulties. It's just a factor of the explosive growth with people getting online and really starting to use email to its full capacity."