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back to article Microsoft 'maintenance' blocks Hotmail

A growing number of Hotmail users are unable to access their email accounts. Complaints from Hotmailers have been piling up in Microsoft's Windows Live support portal since at least January 3. It's not just the cheapo, freebie version used by millions of Hotmail fans that's in trouble. Those forking out $19.95 a year for …

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IT Angle

No IT angle

Because "hotmail" is not serious: it is some sort of toy system aimed at teenagers, isn't it?

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Happy

Simple answer (and yes there is an IT angle)

It's not like Microsoft is going to run Hotmail on a *nix platform, so this must be monthly patching. For realz:

"Someone please explain to me why ever few weeks I [sic] unable to log into my email for hours ad a time?????????????? The [sic] crap gets old."

Our Exchange users - the ones that for some reason had to be in their mailfile at 2 AM Sunday morning, back before you could force offline/cached mode by policy, back before Exchange got real redundancy - used to make the same complaints :D

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Anonymous Coward

Funny you should mention that

Before Hotmail was borged by Micro$hit, the infrastructure was Solaris-based SPARC hosts.

It was only after M$ bought and downgraded to Winblows that the problems of this magnitude started.

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FAIL

Fail

Cue the posts about how it's free and users shouldn't expect it to be perfect.

Microsoft - we suck more and more(tm)

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Free, except when it isn't free

Even the article points out "Those forking out $19.95 a year for Hotmail Plus are also blocked."

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Gates Horns

So what?

"Even the article points out 'Those forking out $19.95 a year for Hotmail Plus are also blocked.'"

Microsoft doesn't give those people any more consideration than the freebies, why should I?

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Go

Short and sweet answer.

Gmail.

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RE: Gmail ... Really ?

@ AC Thursday 6th January 2011 01:17 GMT

Please expand on what you said as the way you left it you sound like a troll.

99.999% of people will be end users. From experience, and also of my friends/family, I cannot recall any problems with using GMail. There has been no downtime for us, no disappearing emails, no blocked accounts ... nothing. Everything just works. This is what end users want.

So, please expand on what you mean because you are indicating there are massive problems with GMail when my experience begs to differ.

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Troll

"massive problems with GMail"...

like Chinese hackers =D

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Ha!

Yeah sure, I'll sell my soul to the folks who want to think for me, who religiously scan all of your precious email to fire more pointless ads at you - they're the kinda folks you can trust y'know?

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Gates Halo

@MrCheese

Could you please elaborate: was that a dig at Microsoft or at Google? In my books they are both as bad as each other at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course

No silly name, no silly image, and a straightforward interface.

Of course, the company that provides it wants your DNA to pass on to advertisers --- but hey, who's perfect?

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WTF?

Is there any other perspective?

Isn't that what free and nearly free internet mail systems are for?

Surely, people use proper in-house or hosted mail servers for proper *commercial* e-mail systems?

Please, tell me that is true! (been retired a while now)

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WTF?

Weren't they trying to position themselves...

Wasn't Microsoft trying to position Hotmail as something suitable for business use? Four days of inability to access it is rather antithetical to proper business operations, in my mind...

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Anonymous Coward

I wonder if the boss is reading

after moving lots of stuff to MS Cloud services

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Go

Yandex Also Has Email

And because russkie and amerikanski spooks/torturers/muderers don't cooperate too often, it might be a safer choice for Americans to use yandex mail. For Russian citizens it's the other way around, they should use Google Mail.

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Hold on...

...there are people who *pay* for Hotmail addresses?

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Gmail is not an answer

If you value your privacy or the privacy of those you correspond with. Gmail examines every aspect of your mail to provide "targeted advertising" to you and your correspondents Some people don't care but others (like me) would prefer not to be advertised to every time we send or receive an email, "targeted" or not.

I only use hotmail under its "Windows Live" alias through Outlook Connector so any advertising on the web page doesn't make it past the Connector. I also don't THINK (I could be wrong) Microsoft sifts all mail headers and content like Google.

Even if they do, I only use that address for my "throw-away" address to be used when signing up for some service or other. My real mail accounts are on a shared server running OpenBSD and where I have my own little partition (probably in a BSD "jail").

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Gates Horns

I didn't know

there were ads on GMail - I don't see ads on the net because I block them all and any trackers etc that I'm aware of. Occasionally I use a browser without an ad or script blocker - its bleedin' awful, reminds me of a severe migraine I once had.

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@Wile E. Veteran

What adverts? I see no adverts :-)

There is no need for adverts any more - block them. Simples

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wow no ads?

Bully for the above. So you get no ads (yes we can all do that) you think it does away with the privacy issue if you use GMail? They don't need scripts to profile you. Thy have the e-mail data stored.

Talk about tunnel vision.

Yes I use Gmail. No I don't care that they do this. Important mails go through a mail server I run but Gmail is convenient for a lot of other things.

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Black Helicopters

GMail Ads

kissingthecarpet claims not to have known GMail contains ads due to ad-blocking - although I suspect that's poetic licence, since anything to do with Google has ads, and lots of them, because Google is first and foremost an advertising company.

Still, my attitude is that GMail is just as secure as any other email service, which is to say not secure at all. The simplest answer to email security is never to send anything sensitive via email: treat email as a handy way to publish information to the public domain. The next-best answer is to use as many layers of encryption as you can; but if, like me, you couldn't tell an encryption hash from an aubergine, it's worth being wary of the false sense of security that encryption brings.

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Not all ads are created equal

"Some people don't care but others (like me) would prefer not to be advertised to every time we send or receive an email, "targeted" or not.

I only use hotmail under its "Windows Live" alias through Outlook Connector so any advertising on the web page doesn't make it past the Connector."

GMail's ads are only shown to me (and then also only when I use the web interface).

AFAIK, Hotmail append an ad to every outgoing mail, bothering the recipients, who haven't signed up for Hotmail.

Which is worse?

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Anonymous Coward

@All the "I see no adverts" comments

You may not see adverts on Gmail because of your adblocking, but Google are still reading all of your mail in order to generate the adverts that you don't see, which is more the point.

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Badgers

Virtually no Ads

Even without Ad blockers there are virtually no Ads on Gmail, just a teeny tiny text banner above the archive, report spam etc buttons.

And if you cared about privacy you wouldn't use email. Full Stop.

emails are sent in plain text using the SMTP protocol... anyone in the middle, (Network Admins, Proxy Admins, ISPs, Government, spooks, gremlins, the boogy man etc) can capture your email and read it without any effort whatsoever.

And if you think Microsoft don't read your email you are kidding yourself.

Google may primarily be an advertising company, but I can honestly say, hand on heart that no google ad has ever pissed me off by taking up too much screen space, flashing, spinning or causing popups/popunders etc. etc. Go onto Hotmail, and all you can see is bloody gaudy flashy adverts everywhere - yuck.

If you want your emails to be private then you'd better set up your own mail server and start encrypting and digitally signing all your emails - of course you won't be able to send them to anyone as they won't know how to decrypt them.

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Go

Make Gmail Private - Use GPG or S/MIME

see title.

To defeat traffic analysis, set up John.Doe@gmail.com or Jack.Wrapper@gmail.com and use both gpg and The Onion Router.

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title

obligatory anti MS comment about crap software,

obligatory comment about how [google | apple | myown servers ] is better

..... ready, go!

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Go

No need for you to motivate us here in any way

Hotmail is really crap, that's all.

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Anonymous Coward

Poo

While end user types will produce a load of dung aromatic responses "you get what you pay for" " what do you expect from micro$hit" etc

Those of us actually responsible for maintaining, testing and such are actually interested.

Microsoft does not (as a rule) employ idiots to maintain it's systems. So what went wrong ?

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Go

Excellent joke!

Luckily I manage somehow to spill my coffee sideways so I owe me nothing for now.

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Unhappy

The details here would be about as interesting as...

the Google spanning outages from a year or two back. It's not like anyone other than Microsoft hosts Hotmail in their environment and issues like this are almost always platform/infrastructure specific. I'm not sure anyone outside of Microsoft even knows what exact software back-ends that system. As such, I would probably categorize everyone other than the Microsoft employees supporting Hotmail as "an end user".

If this outage was on BPOS with Exchange hosting the mail then it would be nice to know at a more detailed level... sure.

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I just can't get a firm grip on the cloud

The mainstream media seem entranced by the cloud, yet almost every day we hear tales of woe - mail disappearing, login issues, security failures, and accompanying each one is the angst of not being able to find out what is actually going on, where you data is, who's responsible and if and when things will be better.

Yet in every home and office we have computers with crazy amounts of processing, storage and bandwidth going spare, that could handle the tasks with ease, and for a similar cost. (Yes, for email Exchange isn't cheap, but there are plenty of alternatives that are). The cloud is fine for things that don't really matter - random chats with friends, streaming timeshifted video etc - but your own data is more valuable.

How many more incidents will it take before we wake up and realise that our data belongs at home, where it's subject to our control, our laws, and our backup policies? But I fear if you're reading here, you're already aware of this - we should be reaching out to less technical forums and raising awareness amongst the general public before too many more become victims of this fad.

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It's new and shiny, it must be awesome.

"How many more incidents will it take before we wake up and realise that our data belongs at home, where it's subject to our control, our laws, and our backup policies?"

I never fell asleep. I did believe, do believe and will continue to believe that the cloud is no place for data of any kind of importance. It is useful for the kind of data that if one inadvertently formatted a hard drive containing such data, one would utter, ho hum never mind.

Even if such systems were 100% secure, 100% reliable and 100% available they are still operated by humans and humans in general are none of the above.

I agree with you, the general public need to be aware of exactly what they are risking when using such services. I don't use any of these services, but I can guess the T&C's admonish the providers of any liability of any kind whatsoever whatever goes wrong, and I presume the T&C's also provide no guarantee of service level or that the service is fit for purpose... A bit like the MS EULA.

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The lining on your cloud is proportional to what you pay for it,

Everything web seems to get bundled under "the cloud" as if its one mega server sitting somewhere, the reality is you get what you pay for when it comes to the issues of security that you raise.

You buy into a SaaS platform which is the primary business of a provider its got to both work and be secure for that company to survive.

On the flipside, a free or near free service like Hotmail which is not exactly Microsofts core business is not going to be operated in the same manner.

It also comes down to scale, you need a lot of infrastructure to run these "free" services so are the providers likely to use the best kit and methods? Whereas a company dependent on SaaS clients paying subs isnt going to last if it doesnt.

Onsite data storage has its pitfalls as well, I work for a company that used to sell installed software and went cloudy in 2005, our market place (fitness, yoga, pilates) are not renowned for IT skills and pre 2005 the data loss and other issues associated with local data storage was a real problem. Since we went SaaS this has made a huge difference as clients cannot lose data and they can break computers or have them stolen and simply go back online with a new box and its all ok.

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Cloud

The whole thing just seems bizarre to me. When, a couple of years back, there was all the talk of how everything would be done via The Cloud - you'd even run your applications remotely from a desktop computer rendered nothing more than a network terminal, and save all your work somewhere 'out there' - I genuinely couldn't understand why anyone anywhere would think this was a good thing.

The only advantage I can see is the ability to access your files from anywhere - but considering the complete surrender of control that it represents I can't see how it weighs favourably against simply using a memory stick to carry the files with you.

I'm even being asked if I want to save my Civilization V games in The Cloud. Well, no. No, I don't. Why would I? I want them here where I can get to them regardless of the state of the Internet. And that's just a game. The notion of storing anything of any actual importance in some nebulous (hohosorry) online realm does great boggling to the mind.

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Re: The lining on your cloud is proportional to what you pay for it

No it isn't.

Regardless of what you pay, you are delegating control over your data to another entity. Their obligation is primarily to their shareholders, not yours. If they decide your continued custom is not in their best interest, you'll need to migrate elsewhere (assuming they haven't pre-emptively gone out of business whilst holding your data, which is mildy embarrassing)

Cloud infrastructure is all about 'scale', yet unless you are running something like Facebook, that's not the main issue. Data integrity, resilience and security should be of more concern, and the infrastructure behind pure 'scale' is, as these incidents prove time and time again, not appropriate to that challenge.

Onsite data storage does indeed have its pitfalls, but they are well known, and solutions are widely available. And remote management tools make it easy for suppliers to IT-illiterate market sectors to keep them running for them.

I'd go so far as to say that any IT provider that goes around recommending their clients use the cloud for core data is risking not only their clients' survival but their own.

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USB Stick? Really?

You'd rather entrust your entire storage to something you can fit in your pocket, and accidentally run through the washing machine? Or accidentally drop as you pull out your wallet to pay for that tall-skinny-soyaccino, or drop, or break, or step on?

Same goes for storing all your stuff on your own server at home; stuff breaks, gets lost, gets swiped while you're on holiday. If you're storing it and backing it up you're responsible for making sure that always happens. For most people, this means it doesn't, or it does for a bit and, when they have to USE their backup, they find it was last updated in '08 and they can't find the restore disk in any case...

Now, if you have stuff stored with a reputable, reliable cloud service* it'll be mirrored and backed up and failover'd in ways most in-house folks dream about, and all part of the service. Know why? 'Cos of economies of scale and 'cos that's what these cloud service providers' reputations are based on. It's like how expensive and difficult it'd be to set up a Bank-of-England-style vault in your own basement to store your own stuff, compared with renting a safety deposit box in the bank's vault.

Hotmail failures sound bad, sure, but no serious, competent cloud practitioner would advise anyone to use Hotmail. Come back to me when one of the "proper" cloud services break like this and we'll talk. Oh, but be prepared to list any in-house service which has served an equivalent number of users with comparable reliability for a comparable time as well. Shouldn't be hard; the list will be very short. Vanishingly small, in fact.

* Not microsoft. Sorry, but they're not serious players in this field. And yes, you'll probably have to pay a subscription for the really good ones...

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Re: USB Stick? Really?

"You'd rather entrust your entire storage to something you can fit in your pocket, and accidentally run through the washing machine?"

I'm not sure why you equate managing your own data with putting it on a USB stick. I agree that's also ill-advised.

And whilst taking data and control in-house brings the onus of responsibility, it's quite acceptable to take on external expertise to help manage it professionally. Whilst they are (like the cloud) third-parties, the difference from the cloud is that you retain control, you know who they are, and where your data is. And if they go out of business they can be more easily replaced.

I'd take up your challenge of listing services "with an equivalent number of users..." if that had any relevance - as I said in the OP the scale aspect of the cloud simply doesn't matter for most people. And reliable resilient solutions for smaller amounts of data are too numerous to list.

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Anonymous Coward

USB Stick

Sil_w said:

"...I can't see how it weighs favourably against simply using a memory stick to carry the files with you."

...and I assumed his memory stick would have a USB connector for maximum portability.

Anyway, I actually agree in some cases; cloud storage / collaboration / whatever isn't a panacea; in many cases there are good reasons for storing/processing it yourself, but it doesn't make sense to simply dismiss cloud solutions for "security" or "reliability" concerns because in many, many cases the ability to answer those security and reliability concerns is actually enhanced with a cloud service.

Depends on the concerns, the individual requirements and the service in question. But doesn't everything?

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USB Sticks - Yes, Really

"You'd rather entrust your entire storage..."

Where'd you get that from? I'm talking about the one advantage I see in cloud storage - namely, you can access the files from anywhere (yippee) - and I'm pointing out that there are other ways to organise that without having to trust your data (note: does not indicate 'your entire storage') to someone else.

"... to something you can fit in your pocket, and accidentally run through the washing machine? Or accidentally drop as you pull out your wallet to pay for that tall-skinny-soyaccino, or drop, or break, or step on?"

As opposed to pass potentially sensitive information to someone I don't know from Adam/Eve? Hell, yes. Look:

"... accidentally run through the washing machine ..."

Either the data's destroyed - in which case security is no longer a problem and I restore from a backup, or it's not, in which case it's a non-issue.

"... accidentally drop as you pull out your wallet to pay for that tall-skinny-soyaccino ..."

I don't drink that sort of thing, but in principle yes: any data I'm carrying about is encrypted sufficiently that it should be tricky to unlock by a casual finder. The risk of it being found by someone who both is remotely interested in it *and* has the skills and time to decrypt it is likely no greater than the risk of someone intercepting it on its way to cloud or, for that matter, as you've pointed out, nicking the server.

"... or drop, or break, or step on ..."

See above re the washing machine.

"If you're storing it and backing it up you're responsible for making sure that always happens. For most people, this means it doesn't"

For me, it either happens, or I bear the responsibility for it not doing - which is rather different from finding it's been exposed or lost by someone else.

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Badgers

Did you actuallty read what I posted?

Or is it just the classic sysadmin knee jerk job saving reaction?

Lumping any and all web based provisions under one banner is nothing short of basic ignorance really.

A SaaS provider can only prosper as a business if data security and integrity is its number one core value.

If you think that what hotmail offers is the same as a subscriber based Software as a Service platform you really need to get out more.

Hotmail is free and not MS core business so customers can suck up a 4 day outage, if Hotmail was MS core business do you think you would see the same?

"Onsite data storage does indeed have its pitfalls, but they are well known, and solutions are widely available. And remote management tools make it easy for suppliers to IT-illiterate market sectors to keep them running for them."

So the IT illiterate are going to pay for secondary and tertiary backup and failover, fire retardation, generators plus an outsourced IT company to keep the server running. Lets hope those IT illiterate companies have enough turnover for all that otherwise they are screwed!

For a lot of companies it comes down to economics as well, pay us $70 per month to get more than above or pay what for the above in your world?

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Who, me?

"Did you actuallty read what I posted? Or is it just the classic sysadmin knee jerk job saving reaction?"

You may have been talking to one of the others, who seem to be more techie than I am; but in the event you posted this in response to me (it's difficult to tell with the Reg's forum layout, unless you actually address someone or quote some text), yes, I did read what you posted.

If you were speaking to me, it seems unlikely that you really read mine, though: I think my first post above about the cloud was pretty clear I was talking about managing files from a user's point of view; so your remark about 'classic sysadmin knee jerk job saving' is irrelevant to me. Your comments may otherwise have been informed and well-founded, but you (assuming you're the AC who objected to my mention of trusting files to a memory stick) seem to have focused on something I wasn't really talking about. What I *was* talking about was the supposed advantage of storing files in the cloud: namely that you can access them from anywhere.

My point then was that, if I wanted to access important files from somewhere else. I'd sooner carry them around and entrust them to *my* safekeeping than fling them out into the Internet somewhere and hope that some total stranger can keep them safe and secure. My safekeeping doesn't mean they're 100% safe, of course; but at least I know exactly what I've done to protect them, and bear sole responsibility if I fail.

Needless to say, if you weren't talking to me, then feel free to ignore the above.

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Badgers

Hotmail worked once upon a time

.. before MS bought it. Then (like everything they touch) it turned to "shite". Shortly after MS bought Hotmail (in 1998) I bailed in favor of the yahoo account I've been using with almost no trouble for many years since then.

One wonders if the reason MS bought Hotmail, instead of building their own, is because they could'nt figure out how to make a webmail portal. There was even the time they forgot to pay the domain renewal for "hotmail.com". Great management there!

A significant portion of the time when I email someone with a Hotmail account it takes around 9 + hours to reach them. THAT is a sign that something is VERY wrong. Gmail, Yahoo, or even GoDaddy's crap servers perform far better.

Does MS use Exchange to run hotmail?! That would explain a lot.

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Happy

I have to admit though...

... I *love* the skydrive, it's really handy having access to all that space and set share permissions easily like that =)

Buy Microsoft, because you're worth it *teeth glint* =D

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Boffin

Is anybody...

who's still using Hotmail using it for anything but a spam catcher?

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Grenade

Your job.

Any Cloud + CEO + lost email = You would be out of a job.

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re:I just can't get a firm grip on the cloud

Agreed, That's why the first thing I did when I installed Win7 was install an e-mail package locally. No way on earth am I going to leave my post "up there".

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WTF?

still working

haven't had any glitches as of yet. everything's still in working order.

don't really get why people are so upset anyway (except the paying people of course), it's a free service, don't rely on something you have no control over, that's a bit silly.

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