March 13 2014

Not Telus, not Google, not Office 365, not Sherweb.  These and a whole host of others in the last two years between 2014 and 2012 have had some downtime for all or a major section of their user base.

Tuesday March 11 email was bouncing back from anyone with an address.  Customers wanting to send an email to someone with that address got a very rude ‘A message that you have sent could not be delivered to one or more recipients.  This is a permanent error.  The following address(es) failed: 

*** 550 5.1.1 *** recipient rejected’

An interesting dynamic in the IT service provider business is who gets the blame for something like this.  We have learned and observed that if someone has a personal gmail account and gmail has an outage it is typically no big deal.  If Telus gets hacked and is marked as a spam agent online most people understand that bad things can happen (This happened in the summer of 2013 for Telus email customers).  If Office365 goes down and email doesn’t work it is uncomfortable and someone gets the blame but if it comes back after a while everyone seems to move on.  Surprisingly, if an IT company ever recommends any of these services it is MAJOR to the customer and usually it is the IT company who gets the axe even though the vendor is the one who dropped the ball.


Reviewing online forums for tech’s and IT companies I found many woeful tales of how an IT company’s partner had an email disruption and the IT service provider is the one who gets fired by the client.  And in many cases I think the client is right.  It is the IT company’s job to make quality recommendations.  For this cause pcit ran from Microsoft Online Services when it first came out because the only way to reach a human was through email.  I had a long chat about this with a Microsoft manager on a plane one time.  From my perspective we were now being asked to trust Microsoft to deliver quality support and quality software and at the time pcit wasn’t interested.  I had confidence in their software versus competitors but being able to deliver quality support?  Let’s just say friendly available staff who can be reached and don’t cost $375 per incident aren’t that easy to find at one of the world’s biggest software companies.  Two years later Microsoft has learned a little bit more about the support process and now allows ‘designated representatives’ to pick up the phone and talk to a human.

Meanwhile Google is marketing business services with online support only.  If an IT company or business decision maker thinks this can really drive value to their business this can be compared to the belief that ignorance is blissful.  Online support is typically a painful, stress inducing process.  I am sure Sergey Brin recognized some of these dynamics and Google stopped trying to really get business customers as soon as he became CEO.

So as an IT company how do you steer clear of getting fired when all of the major email service providers are experiencing downtime?  Fortunately we have picked great partners.  We have had one client on one hosted email platform with a single email address who was down for a couple days over the last 5 years.  This customer never fired us but boy did that 1 email account pre-occupy a lot of our offices day while it was down.  If our other partners were down they managed to hide it really well and we escaped any customer’s potential venom and wrath!

When looking for email services, cloud services and technology to leverage productivity it is important to look past the cool website and slick install.  Real business can be complex at times and support from an intelligent human with the power to make a change can deliver a lot of value.  I believe this is something to consider before the next email provider has an outage with a long list of reasons why this was such a ‘unique occurrence’ that ‘should never happen again’.

Written by Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer is the founder and president of pcit.

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