After Office 365 Cloud Outages, Partners Calling For Better Communication From Microsoft

Microsoft has suffered major outages to Office 365 cloud services for two straight days now, and some partners are calling for it to change how it notifies customers when things go wrong.

Microsoft currently provides status updates on cloud service availability on its Office 365 Service Health Dashboard. During Monday's Lync outage and Tuesday's Exchange Online outage, Microsoft pointed customers to the dashboard for status updates.

Some Exchange customers are experiencing email delays, we are working to resolve, please see the SHD for service status

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But unlike Amazon and Google, which make this information available on public web pages, Microsoft requires customers to sign into the Service Health Dashboard to see if Office 365 services are working or not.

Plus, only Office 365 users with administrative privileges can access the Service Health Dashboard.

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"This is to ensure that companies own the messaging for their internal users. We do not maintain a public instance of the Service Health Dashboard, as our customers prefer targeted messages specific to their company when they are impacted, rather than generic messages," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.

[Related: Microsoft Suffers Another Cloud Outage As Exchange Online Users Left In The Lurch ]

Microsoft's log-in requirement has long been unpopular with some partners that sell Office 365, mainly because they feel it makes customers jump through unnecessary hoops.

Several partners told CRN they think it's long past time for Microsoft to make its Service Health Dashboard information publicly accessible. They're also calling on Microsoft to get better at communicating in these situations.

"The silence from Microsoft is deafening on this issue," one Microsoft partner said of this week's cloud outages. "We have over a thousand Office 365 customers and our phones have been lit up all day with questions about when the service would be restored. All we have is the service dashboard, which doesn’t give us a lot of detail."

Adding to the confusion, some customers said the Service Health Dashboard wasn't indicating problems with the Exchange Online service, even as customer reports of problems piled up on Microsoft's Office 365 user forum and on Twitter.

"An accurate public status is critical," said another Microsoft partner who sells Office 365. "Our clients are complaining more about the lack of communication than the actual outage."

"The portal system for identifying issues is obviously not a working solution for us," said one customer on the Office 365 user forum. "We need accurate and timely updates, and we are not getting them."

NEXT: Why Office 365 Outages Are Sure To Attract Attention

Microsoft said in January that Office 365 is the fastest-growing product in its history. In May, Microsoft said Office 365 is on a $2.5 billion annual run rate. Obviously, future outages are sure to receive lots of attention from customers, which is why partners would like to see Microsoft change its notification policy.

Is Microsoft considering this? "As with any service incident, we will look at areas to improve including how we communicate to our customers as well as partners," the Microsoft spokesperson said by way of response.

But in the meantime, Microsoft partners are willing to forgive the occasional outage -- provided Microsoft gets better at letting customers know what's happening when cloud services do go dark.

"This is the first ’real’ outage we have had in a while – and that’s ok," said one of the aforementioned partners. "Most customers understand that outages happen, and the Office 365 service to date has been extremely reliable."

Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN public outage notifications aren't that big of a deal. He'd rather see Microsoft increase the frequency of its status updates when outages happen.

"As an IT professional, I realize that resolving service issues is sometimes complicated and can take time," Hertz told CRN. "My customers also generally understand this as well and are willing to be patient, but they do want regular and frequent updates every 15-30 minutes."