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Dear Microsoft: Meet Karma


By Ken Magill

Did anyone notice a drop in responses from Hotmail and Outlook address holders last week?

If so, there was a reason.

Microsoft has issued an apology to Hotmail and Outlook address holders for a lengthy outage that occurred on the afternoon of March 12 and continued into the morning hours of March 13.

“[W]e do want to sincerely apologize to anyone that was unable to access their email during the interruption. Outages are something we take very seriously and invest a significant amount of our time and energy in doing our best to prevent,” wrote Arthur de Haan, a Microsoft vice president, in a blog post.

He then explained how the outage occurred:

“On the afternoon of the 12th, in one physical region of one of our datacenters, we performed our regular process of updating the firmware on a core part of our physical plant. This is an update that had been done successfully previously, but failed in this specific instance in an unexpected way. This failure resulted in a rapid and substantial temperature spike in the datacenter. This spike was significant enough before it was mitigated that it caused our safeguards to come in to place for a large number of servers in this part of the datacenter.”

Okay, so it was a temperature spike. But as one commenter noted, shouldn’t there have been some redundancies in place to avoid outages? Shouldn’t the whip smarties at Microsoft have been able to pinpoint this particular data center as a point of failure before it became one?

I know: Easy for me to say.

In any case, the outage was particularly delicious as it came on the heels of Microsoft’s despicable Scroogled campaign attempting to vilify Google’s Gmail for serving ads based on email content.

“Google earns money by violating your privacy. They go through every word of your personal Gmail so they can target you with ads,” says copy on

“Every word of every email. Even the most private ones, like messages about relationships, health care, finances, and more. Do you feel violated yet?”

No Microsoft, I don’t feel violated. However, since I haven’t had any trouble with my Gmail account in the seven or so years I’ve had it, I do feel confident I won’t have the access problems your Hotmail and Outlook address holders had last week.

I’m not a big believer in Karma. And I certainly take no satisfaction in the idea that some email campaigns may have drawn lower responses because of a Microsoft webmail outage.

But it sure does seem like Microsoft got at least a small dose of what it deserves, doesn’t it?


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2013-03-20 11:09:57
Subject: Microsoft & Karma

Yep. We would be disagreeing on this one. I've got no issue with Google scanning my email content for keywords. Thanks for the comment. And, as always, thanks for spending your valuable time with this newsletter.
Posted by: Bill Kaplan
Date: 2013-03-19 16:08:16
Subject: Microsoft & Karma

Ken, I usually agree with the positions you take but this one seems like a stretch. Microsoft had an outage, which caused delays in email delivery for some portion of its hundreds of millions Hotmail and Outlook users. Given the billions of emails processed daily by Microsoft and the many other providers, I commend Microsoft and others for providing email services with an error rate that's as close to zero as one can get. By the way, Gmail just had an outage in December 2012, thereby proving they're not immune to making errors either. As for the Karma argument, Microsoft has a point. I hate seeing ads in my Gmail account and I hate it even more that they're targeted as a result of Google searching through each and every one of my emails. Karma would be if Gmail went down for an indefinite period of time as a result of some greater force in the universe deciding that what we write in emails to one another is not any of Google's business.