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Microsoft's hosted services hit a rough patch

Company's core service for businesses--a bundle that includes hosted Exchange and SharePoint--has had several outages over the past couple of weeks.

Users of Microsoft's hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint have had to endure a bumpy last couple of weeks, with at least three service interruptions or outages.

Microsoft said in a blog post this week that all of the issues were related to a change in networking infrastructure that the company made last month. The company attempted to fix the issue after a two-hour service interruption on August 23, but the fix didn't solve everything and there were further problems on September 3 and again on Tuesday.


"We aspire to deliver quality services, and in the last couple of weeks, we have fallen short of this aspiration," Microsoft's Morgan Cole said in a blog post. "During this time, we experienced two network access issues in North America, and (on September 7), two brief periods of service degradation also affecting users served from North America."

Cole said that the issues were confined to the hosted Exchange/SharePoint service, which Microsoft calls its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Among its big-name corporate customers are Autodesk, Blockbuster, and Coca-Cola.

Although nearly all online services encounter problems from time to time (Google had a major outage in May 2009, for example), service quality is a key issue, especially for businesses weighing whether to move core services such as e-mail from their own servers onto hosted services.

In an April interview, Microsoft's Chris Capossela talked about how the shift to the cloud is tough for IT anyway, especially those companies that like to keep control over their systems. Outages, of course, only add to this.

"Needless to say we, like you, find the events unacceptable and have 24/7 efforts underway to ensure we do not have a repeat of these events," Cole said. "We appreciate the serious responsibility we have as a service provider to you, and we know that any issue with the service is a disruption to your business--and that's not acceptable. I can assure you that we are investing the time and resources required to ensure we are living up to your--and our own--expectations for a quality service experience every day."