In an effort to improve the responsiveness of Microsoft’s Outlook-branded email service, the company updated the backend to automatically determine your physical location, and store your emails and attachments in a nearby data center. But don’t get creeped out just yet: The disclosure simply means that if you move to a different country, Outlook.com will eventually realize what happened and migrate your account to a nearby data center for better performance.
“Historically, we have determined locations based on the country you selected as your place of residence when you created the account,” the company said. “But in a world where migration is increasingly common, relying on you to manually keep that place of residence information up to date doesn’t make sense.”
In other words, when users previously created an Outlook account, they manually provided their current regional location. The only way Outlook could move your data to a different region was after you manually changed the information within the Outlook account. Now Outlook streamlines the process by determining your location automatically, so you don’t have to lift a finger (or digital suitcase).
What you won’t see with this backend “upgrade” is the Outlook service moving your account between data centers every time you travel from region to region. If you live in the United States and take a trip to Paris, France, the account will remain in the data center located in the U.S. If you actually move to Paris at some point, the account will eventually shift overseas with you as well.
But this update doesn’t just focus on moving data from one continent to another. Microsoft’s is referring to specific areas across the globe, such as eight regions within the U.S., two in Canada, two in Germany, two in the U.K., and so on. Thus, if you move from North Carolina (East US 2) to Washington (West US 2), your account will move to that region’s datacenter as well.
“Our data center capacity is also increasing, providing more opportunities to host your data closer to where you are located,” the company added. “Accordingly, we made updates that improve our ability to maintain your Outlook.com data closer to you with greater accuracy.”
According to Microsoft, the company is still working on six data centers for central and southern France, the northern and western parts of South Africa, and two locations in central Australia. Currently, Microsoft’s data centers cover 29 regions across the globe.
Microsoft’s Outlook email service started out as Hotmail in 1996, but was acquired by the company in 1997 for $400 million, and immediately renamed as MSN Hotmail. Eventually, Microsoft rebranded the service as Windows Live Hotmail until finally landing on the Outlook.com name in 2013. The online version copies the interface of the offline Outlook client, and crams in other services such as Skype, OneDrive, Outlook Calendar, and the online versions of the Office 365 suite.