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Outage hits Microsoft's bCentral

A glitch knocks Microsoft's bCentral services offline Friday, leaving thousands of small-business Web sites inaccessible for much of the day.

A glitch knocked Microsoft's bCentral services offline Friday, leaving thousands of small-business Web sites inaccessible for much of the day.

The outage, which began early Friday and was resolved late in the day, disrupted Web service for 15,000 Microsoft bCentral customers, Microsoft spokesman Rich Adolph said. "bCentral regrets the inconvenience this issue has caused to its customers," he said.

The Web site of Microsoft bCentral itself was unaffected by the outage, which Microsoft blamed on a hardware problem. Among other services, bCentral provides Web hosting to small businesses.

Ron Hall, a bCentral customer, said his e-commerce site, vkrshop.com, was down nearly all day. He said the outage could cost him about 20 percent of his weekly sales because Friday is one of the busiest days for his site, which sells personal fitness equipment.

Hall said the most frustrating aspect was that numerous conversations with bCentral customer service yielded no answers about the nature of the problem or when it would be resolved.

"What's so disturbing is the lack of information from Microsoft," said Hall. "After six or seven hours of no service, customers deserve more than that."

Friday's outage follows a string of gaffes or security glitches affecting users of various Microsoft Internet properties, including the MSN Internet portal, Hotmail e-mail system and Passport online identity authentication system.

Last summer, another bCentral server glitch led America Online to temporarily block e-mail from Microsoft bCentral customers. According to AOL, the bCentral servers did not respond to queries from AOL to determine where the mail was coming from, leading the system to "time out."