Microsoft Patches: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Will Microsoft step up its server capacity to meet increasingly heavy user demand for its monthly patches? Stay tuned.

Its like clockwork these days: Every second Tuesday of the month, Microsoft releases its amalgamated security patches and fixes.

Microsofts customers have come to plan on this monthly happening. And many of them have programmed their systems to automatically download the patches when they appear—usually around 10 a.m. Pacific time.

So whats the problem? Too many users hitting too few servers. The result? Problems connecting to Microsofts Windows Update site, where the downloadable patches reside.

"Now that more people are aware that updates are due on the second Tuesday … Im seeing what I thought would happen…Denial of service of Windows Update from their own customers," said one Microsoft customer, systems engineer Rafael Cappas.

"I checked Windows Update at 5 p.m. PDT last night and it was unresponsive and received many server too busy messages. I checked Windows Update at 9 a.m. EDT this morning and the same problems were present," he said.

"Microsoft can add more servers to clusters but that would not be the solution, especially as more and more home users, small business users and even corporate customers schedule updates on that monthly update," Cappas continued. But "what happens to out of schedule updates once they set it and forget it?"

Internet watchers at Netcraft Ltd. noticed the bottleneck yesterday, April 14, right after Microsoft released its latest collection of Windows fixes. Users were especially anxious to obtain the April fixes, as three of the four collections of them were marked as "critical" by the Redmond software giant.

"Microsofts Windows Update Web site has been experiencing slow response times in the wake of yesterdays release of critical security updates," noted the Netcraft researchers. However, "a browser request through Internet Explorer eventually raises the site after an extended wait, and in some cases it is possible to successfully download and install updates over a broadband connection."

Microsoft acknowledged the problem. The companys security response and Windows Update teams noted that following this Tuesdays security bulletin release, requests to Windows Update "nearly doubled in volume from typical release days."

A company spokeswoman admitted that the demand caused "some performance slow-downs yesterday." But she added that "Microsoft has put into place additional resources and increased capacity to ensure that the increase in volume will not affect customer experience on Windows Update."

At the end of day on Wednesday, she noted that Microsoft was "not currently seeing any problems meeting the increase in volume."

The spokeswoman added that "Microsoft attributes this significant increase in update downloads to the recent move to a monthly release schedule which makes security more predictable for customers, as well as the increased use of Windows Update and Auto Update."

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