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Microsoft makes tweaks to Xbox Live and Teams to handle spike in demand

Microsoft is adjusting its cloud services to manage the huge surge in demand caused by the pandemic of coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing service, has been under tremendous strain in the last few weeks as people all over the globe switch to remote work and turn to gaming for entertainment at home.

Last week, Microsoft announced it would be monitoring performance and usage trends to anticipate increased demand for its services, and set out criteria for deciding what services should be a top priority (for example, that first responders, medical supply management, and emergency applications be prioritized).

This week, the company has released the first results of the monitoring of usage, and unsurprisingly, there’s been a massive spike. “We have seen a 775% increase of our cloud services in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders,” Microsoft shared in a blog post. In addition, “We have seen a very significant spike in Teams usage and now have more than 44 million daily users. Those users generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes on Teams daily in a single week.” The company also shared that the use of Windows Virtual Desktop has grown by more than three times.

To manage this demand, Microsoft is making some small changes to some of its services including Xbox Live. “To streamline moderation and ensure the best experience for our community, we’re making small adjustments,” an Xbox support notification highlighted by The Verge reads. “We’ve temporarily turned off the ability to upload custom gamerpics, club pics, and club backgrounds.” Microsoft has also said that it is taking “proactive steps” to prepare for periods of high usage and by pushing bandwidth-heavy actions like game updates into off-peak hours.

The Teams service will be tweaked as well. “We made a few temporary adjustments to select non-essential capabilities such as how often we check for user presence, the interval in which we show when the other party is typing, and video resolution,” the blog post said. “These adjustments do not have significant impact on our end users’ daily experiences.”

These small changes shouldn’t make much of an impact on users, but they will hopefully allow Azure services to remain active to meet all of the increased demand they face.

Update 04/01/2020: Microsoft has clarified that the 775% increase in service use was in Teams calling in Italy specifically, where a shelter in place order has been enforced.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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