19 Aug 2013
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Three days later, Microsoft fixes Outlook

Following a severe outage on Outlook.com last week, Microsoft has confirmed it has finally resolved the three-day issue.

Plaguing some Kiwi users since as long as Thursday, the software giant previously admitted the problem was taking longer to fix than expected.

Apologising to the affected users in an official statement, Microsoft claims access to all accounts have been restored, along with changes to the service to make it more resilient in the future.

"We realise that we have a responsibility to the customers who use our services to communicate and share with the people they care most about, and we apologise for letting those customers down this week," the statement reads.

"Our first priority is to the health of the services, and we will learn from this incident and work to improve the experience of all our customers.

"As part of that, we would also like to provide more detail about what happened."

Microsoft says the incident was a result of a failure in a caching service that interfaces with devices using Exchange ActiveSync, including most smart phones.

As a result, the failure caused these devices to receive an error and continuously try to connect to their service.

This resulted in a flood of traffic that company services did not handle properly, with the effect that some customers were unable to access their Outlook.com email and unable to share their SkyDrive files via email.

In order to stabilise the overall email service, Microsoft temporarily blocked access via Exchange ActiveSync in a bid to restore access to Outlook.com via the web and restore the sharing features of SkyDrive.

These parts of the service were fully stabilised within a few hours of the initial incident the company claims.

A significant backlog of Exchange ActiveSync requests accumulated as the company worked to stabilise access. To avoid another flood of traffic, Microsoft says it needed to restore access to Exchange ActiveSync slowly, which meant that some customers remained impacted for a longer period of time.

"We have learned from this incident, and have made two key changes to harden our systems against future failure – 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 company says.

"We will continue to monitor the system and make additional changes as needed to keep the service healthy.

"We are now fully through the backlog and have restored service so all customers should have normal access from all of their devices.

"We want to apologise to everyone who was affected by the outage, and we appreciate the patience you have shown us as we worked through the issues."

Yet despite the apology, Microsoft admitted the Outlook.com problems aren’t completely resolved, adding: "A small percentage of mobile users may experience intermittent issues while syncing email."

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