Feeds

Microsoft confesses to New Year Hotmail blunders

Claims nothing deleted, admits emails may have 'bounced'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Microsoft's Hotmail saw the New Year in with a whimper, after thousands of its users were unable to access their web-based email accounts.

Yesterday the company explained what went wrong, offered a relatively minor apology given the scale of the cockup, and said it would endeavor to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Worse still, it also coughed to separate "data loss issues" on the software vendor's increasingly tarnished Hotmail service.

Microsoft's Mike Schackwitz blamed a script error on the first outage that affected 17,355 users, who had reported a major problem that downed some mailboxes on 30 December.

However, Redmond didn't take full action until two days later when it finally raised the priority of the issue, after reports continued to flood in from unhappy users.

Microsoft said the script error removed the directory records "of a small number of real user accounts along with a set of test accounts".

It claimed that no email messages or folders had been deleted when the cockup occurred, but confessed that "the inbox location in the directory servers was removed".

Thousands of users hit by the error were greeted with a new mailbox and a "Welcome to Hotmail" message when they tried to log into their accounts.

Microsoft wonks spent the past few days restoring the inboxes for the users affected, and it finally reunited everyone with their email on 5 January - that's a mighty six days after Hotmailers raised the alarm.

Despite the slow response, Schackwitz said he was "happy to report that no user data was permanently lost in this particular incident".

But here's the rub:

"The only unfortunate exception to this statement is that, if you were affected by this incident and you didn't sign in to your account between the time of the incident and the time your account was restored, then any messages sent to your account during that time would have bounced."

Microsoft is now rejigging how it provisions and removes test accounts in Hotmail by using a separate code path, but many will wonder why such a system wasn't in place already.

It's also changing the firm's "issue alert process" in Hotmail so missing data issues will be responded to more quickly. But again, critics will ask why this wasn't standard procedure for such reports. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?