Outlook.com Restored after 3 Days

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 @ 05:08 PM gHale

Microsoft apologized for a three-day partial outage of Outlook.com and said the email service was back up and running, but then said some problems still plagued some users.

Early Saturday, the Redmond, WA, company said it resolved Outlook.com’s issues, which stemmed from a failure in a caching service of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), the synchronization service widely used to sync smartphones and tablets with company email, contacts and calendars stored on Microsoft Exchange Server systems.

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“We want to apologize to everyone who was affected by the outage, and we appreciate the patience you have shown us as we worked through the issues,” Microsoft said.

On Wednesday, Outlook.com, the SkyDrive cloud storage service and the Peoples contacts application suffered partial outages that began around 10 a.m. eastern time. While the Peoples problem ended up fixed about five hours later, SkyDrive’s issues did not end up fully resolved until Thursday around 4 p.m. eastern time.

Some users of Outlook.com, however, were unable to access email on mobile devices that relied on EAS — a category that includes iPhones, whose iOS uses EAS for synchronization — until around 4:30 a.m. eastern time Saturday.

During the outage, Microsoft said, the cache service failure “caused these devices to receive an error and continuously try to connect to our service. This resulted in a flood of traffic that our services did not handle properly.”

Microsoft said it had already taken steps to prevent similar problems in the future. “[We] have made two key changes … one that involved increasing network bandwidth in the affected part of the system, and one that involved changing the way error handling is done for devices using Exchange ActiveSync.”

The cache flood problem Microsoft described were similar to issues they had earlier this year in iOS 6.1-powered iPhones and iPads which affected not only on-premise Exchange servers within enterprises, but also Microsoft’s own infrastructure, including its Office 365 subscription service.

But Outlook.com’s problems were not completely behind it Saturday as at 2:30 p.m. eastern time, Microsoft logged a problem on the status board, saying, “A small percentage of mobile users may experience intermittent issues while syncing email.”

They were still working on the problem well into the evening Saturday.

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