The widely felt, though less than widely reported, outage of Microsoft’s Hotmail and Live services shows up a flaw that has been looming for the past year. The service is bumping up against its capacity almost daily, yet no one from Microsoft has said anything, and the users seem strangely quiet.

For most of yesterday, a massive outage was apparent to anyone who has an account with Hotmail.com or Live.com. Reported as starting at about 0630 EST, it remained difficult to get onto any of the Microsoft Hotmail or Live sites for most of the day. This was remedied in less than 14 hours, but little outages have been occurring most weekdays for about a year now. If one wishes to use the service between 0800 and 0930 EST, the ‘Service Unavailable’ notice appears almost all Mondays and Tuesdays, and to a lesser extent on the other weekdays at this time. The same problem occurs many afternoons at around 1700 EST. If a little thought is given, it would seemingly correspond to the many users on the East and Central time zones, checking their mail at the start of the day’s work, and then just before leaving. There is no similar West Coast phenomenon, as the Earth only moves in one direction.

Lots of people I know state that the service, being free, cannot be expected to be very reliable, as it must be an afterthought to the forces in Redmond. This is far from true, as Microsoft depends on the revenue from those ads that accompany each user’s mail. For some, like me, extra money is paid for increased limits for storage and size of any attachments that can be sent. I know I have been increasingly peeved when I cannot get to my mail, and often wonder why this is happening over a period of time.

This is, for me, a case of the problem being partially due to laziness (I’m used to the interface) and also the speed and convenience when things are working right.

Google is an acceptable solution, but the interface I find is less than ideal. I don’t want to get started about the abysmal interface and speed of the Yahoo! offerings, and other free choices have many more limitations.

That leaves many of us with a good, but frequently not adequate solution for e-mail, both at home, work, and on the go. Hopefully the advertisers will complain soon and Microsoft will ramp up the service and capacity.

What are your experiences with e-mail? For most of us, what was once a luxury and an oddity, became a necessity that doing without is impossible.

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