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Microsoft Outlook halts businesses during outage

It was like the 1980s again in offices across the country Tuesday as a widespread outage of Microsoft’s email services for businesses gave workers no choice but to pick up the phone or wander over to their colleagues to chat in person.

Kevin Watson, who runs a political consulting firm in San Clemente, California, uses Google for his personal email but, like many in the business world, relies heavily on Microsoft Outlook to stay in touch with clients. His email service was out for more than half of the workday, and he only began receiving email in the afternoon – about five hours late.

“I’ve been picking up the phone and calling my most important clients,” he said. “You can’t stop because there’s no email.”

Microsoft confirmed the outage, but throughout the day the company declined to offer details about the size and scope of the problem. Later in the evening, the firm said the problem only affected customers in North America, but it still gave no answers on what had happened exactly.

The outage threatened to ding the reputation of the company’s marquee business product – Office 365, which offers Outlook – just as Microsoft is trying to prove it can help clients more easily share their documents and messages over the Internet. Office 365 has added online features to respond to the exploding popularity of the Google Docs suite of online products.