Microsoft says a load balancing issue temporarily deleted the inboxes and other messages of more than 17,000 Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail e-mail users, an issue that persisted for more than four days.
According to Microsoft, the widely popular Windows Live Hotmail Internet e-mail service first took a hit on Thursday, Dec. 30. Thousands of users reported logging into their accounts and noticing that emails, folders and other data had vanished and could not be recovered.
In a blog post, Microsoft said the Windows Live Hotmail outage and other issues were caused by an issue that fouled up the load balancing between Hotmail servers.
"Beginning on December 30th we had an issue with Windows Live Hotmail that impacted 17,355 accounts," Chris Jones, a Windows Live spokesperson, wrote in a blog post explaining the Windows Live Hotmail inbox outage. "Customers impacted temporarily lost the contents of their mailbox through the course of mailbox load balancing between servers."
Jones wrote that Microsoft has identified the cause of the problem and has restored the missing e-mail to the impacted Windows Live Hotmail e-mail accounts as of late Sunday, Jan. 2, though many users insisted that the issue persisted through Monday and even early Tuesday morning.
"My inbox of over 8,000 e-mails from the start of this address over 10 years ago is still gone … I am devastated by this loss, my life, business, tax info, etc was all in this email I accessed daily," one perturbed user wrote.
The outage sparked a firestorm as the more than 17,000 affected Hotmail Internet e-mail users discovered their data missing. Angered users took to Microsoft Windows Live forums and other Internet venues like Facebook to voice grievances. Many said they logged into their Hotmail Web e-mail accounts and saw no e-mails in their inbox, no sent messages, no deleted messages and no folders.
Microsoft apologized profusely for the foul up and said it will continue to investigate the issue to prevent a repeat of it in the future.
"As with all incidents like this, we will fully investigate the cause and will take steps to prevent this from happening again," Jones wrote. "We're very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused to you, our customers and partners."