An email outage that left some users without email for several hours warranted an apology-and Microsoft issued an effective one. A version on its website unfortunately lacks paragraph breaks, but this easier-to-read statement appeared elsewhere:
We want to apologize to our customers who were affected by the outage on Outlook.com this week. We have restored access to all accounts and have made changes so that the service will be more resilient in the future. We realize 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 apologize for letting those customers down this week.
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.
This incident was a result of a failure in a caching service that interfaces with devices using Exchange ActiveSync, including most smart phones. The 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, 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 stabilize the overall email service, we temporarily blocked access via Exchange ActiveSync. This allowed us to restore access to Outlook.com via the web and restore the sharing features of SkyDrive. These parts of the service were fully stabilized within a few hours of the initial incident. A significant backlog of Exchange ActiveSync requests accumulated as we worked to stabilize access. To avoid another flood of traffic, we 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. 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 apologize to everyone who was affected by the outage, and we appreciate the patience you have shown us as we worked through the issues.
Dick Craddock, group program manager for Outlook also posted this message on Facebook and sent an email to users:
On behalf of the entire Outlook.com team, I would like to extend my personal apology for any inconvenience you may have experienced last week with access to Outlook.com.
We realize how critical your email is for staying in touch with your personal network and for being productive with the things you need to get done. And we are truly sorry for any issues you had in accessing Outlook.com. We want you to know that Outlook.com has earned a leading reputation as a reliable and trustworthy email experience and to that end, we deeply investigate any issue to ensure that we fully understand the root cause and can prevent a similar occurrence in the future. And we pledge to you that we are dedicated to providing the reliable and trustworthy mail experience that you expect.
Many of you have asked and we would also like to provide a more detailed explanation of what happened last week that caused some of you to be temporarily unable to access your email. This incident was caused by a failure for some of our servers in the functionality that syncs information on some mobile devices using Exchange ActiveSync. The failure caused these devices to receive an error and continuously retry connecting with our service. This resulted in a flood of traffic that some of our servers did not handle properly, with the effect that many customers on those servers were unable to access their Outlook.com email.
In order to stabilize the impacted servers, we temporarily blocked access over Exchange ActiveSync for all of those servers and then worked to restore this gradually. Because of the significant backlog of traffic that had accumulated and in order to avoid another flood of traffic, we restored access slowly, meaning some of our mobile 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 – the most important is in updating the way we handle Exchange ActiveSync traffic to avoid a flood of requests hitting our servers and to ensure more reliable connections and the second involves increasing network bandwidth in the affected part of the system to ensure we have a greater capacity for these requests.
It is our goal to provide exceptional service to every person using Outlook.com, and I hope you will give us an opportunity to restore your confidence in Outlook.com. Your support and dedication to our email service is very important to us. And so once again, on behalf of the entire Outlook.com team, I want to apologize for any inconvenience you experience and want to thank you for any patience you have shown us as we worked through the issues.
We look forward to your continued Outlook.com usage and hope to have the privilege of being your primary personal email service in the future.
Group Program Manager, Outlook.com
- Compare the two messages. What are the similarities and differences? How do you account for each?
- What examples of logical arguments, emotional appeal, and credibility do you find in these examples?
- How do you assess the parts of the statements that explain what happened? Do you find them easy to understand for someone who isn't technical? Could the explanations be improved in some way?
- Do you find the apology sincere? What works well-or doesn't?