Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Microsoft is seeing a massive increase in demand for its cloud services during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “We have seen a 775 percent increase of our cloud services in regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders,” explains a Microsoft Azure blog post. This increase in demand includes Windows Virtual Desktop usage growing more than three times, and record numbers across Microsoft Teams, Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live, and Mixer.
Microsoft has started tweaking its cloud services accordingly. “To streamline moderation and ensure the best experience for our community, we’re making small adjustments,” says an Xbox support note. “We’ve temporarily turned off the ability to upload custom gamerpics, club pics, and club backgrounds.” Existing custom Xbox gamerpics will work just fine, but Microsoft is trying to lighten the load on its moderation team checking new uploads during an overall increase in Xbox Live activity.
Microsoft says it’s also working with Xbox game publishers to “deliver higher-bandwidth activities like game updates during off-peak hours.” Sony has also taken a similar approach by slowing down PlayStation game downloads to help preserve overall internet speeds.
Microsoft revealed last week that it will prioritize cloud access for first responders and emergency services, and keep Microsoft Teams up and running. Teams usage surged by 12 million in just a week earlier this month, and Microsoft Teams initially suffered some outages as a result.
Microsoft has now temporarily tweaked some aspects of Teams to improve overall capacity and reliability. “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.”