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Microsoft gaffe knocks storage service off line

REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft unwittingly let an online security certificate expire Friday, triggering a worldwide outage in an online service that stores data for a wide range of business customers.

The sloppy housekeeping represents an embarrassing lapse for Microsoft Corp. as the software maker tries to bring in more revenue from the storage service, called Azure.

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The expired certificate is needed to properly run online services such as Azure, which uses an ‘‘https’’ protocol to block unauthorized users from accessing information.

The service went down shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. The breakdown prevented Azure customers from accessing files kept in Microsoft’s data centers. The service still hadn’t been fully restored more than four hours later, according to a post on Microsoft’s website.

Azure’s failure illuminates the pitfalls of storing important information in remote data centers, often called ‘‘cloud computing.’’

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