Yesterday, Microsoft suffered a global outage of not only Office 365, but also other services such as Hotmail and SkyDrive. This outage went on for around 3 hours during which users with their applications and data stored in the cloud could not access it at all. During the outage, Microsoft continued to relay information via their Office365 twitter account and seemed to suggest that the issue was linked to DNS problems. The resolved the issue and it then took time for things to sort themselves out as many DNS servers cache the records for varying periods of time (despite the fact that they are supposed to listen to the values the record holder puts in place).
What is concerning to me is that so far, I’ve not seen any further official explanation of how the problem occurred, and what they are doing to prevent it happening again. It makes me a wonder why there is no official statement from them as yet. Were they hacked? Were they the victim of a Denial of Service attack? Was it some user error that took them off the air for so long? Why is there nothing forthcoming from Microsoft on the topic?
Make no mistake, the cloud is here to stay, but that does not mean we should all move to the cloud without due diligence and without questioning if it’s right for your business. An outage like yesterdays could cause a massive loss in productivity for any business – the fact that it occurred mostly outside business hours in the USA was likely a blessing for Microsoft. The only problem was that it was still business hours in other parts of the world and people were inconvenienced. As we look to move our business more to the cloud, we want to know that we won’t be without access to our data and applications for long periods of time. In committing to the cloud, we are also committing to putting our data and applications in the hands of someone we don’t have a direct relationship with. We know that in the small business space, having a direct relationship with the customer is paramount.
Having said all this – had an issue such as this (whatever the cause) happened to a smaller cloud provider, would the resolution be so swift or would it take longer? If it was in fact some DOS or hack of the DNS around Microsoft’s assets, then the other side of the coin is that is it safer to be with a smaller cloud provider that is not as high profile and therefore hackers are not so likely to try to take them down? Many questions for sure – and all points to be considered in your search for a cloud solutions for your business.
I believe Microsoft owe their users and resellers a clear explanation of what went wrong and what they are doing to ensure it won’t happen again. They need to be transparent to their users to ensure that the users confidence is maintained.