Creative Cloud outage leaves Adobe users unable to work

by Adam Banks on May 15, 2014

UPDATE: At 01:37 (BST) on Friday 16 May, @AdobeCare tweeted: “Adobe ID issue is resolved. We are bringing services back online. We will share more details once we confirm everything is working.” Towards the end of the outage, the account began to advise users to disconnect from the internet temporarily before launching apps, the workaround that MacUser had recommended hours earlier (although this didn’t enable access to services such as Typekit). The outage coincided with Adobe’s two-day EMEA Summit conference in London. Later, Adobe posted a brief statement apologising for the fault.

UPDATE: Adobe has now put up a page with workarounds that it says should help users access their CC apps.

After 24 hours, Adobe is still struggling to fix a serious fault with its login system that’s preventing large numbers of users from accessing elements of Creative Cloud, the subscription service that for the past year has been the only way to access most of the company’s market-leading software.

While not all Creative Cloud users are affected, some have found even installed desktop apps such as InDesign and Photoshop, which were previously functioning normally, suddenly refuse to run, instead showing an obscure or garbled error message. “Several [Creative Cloud installations] in our office have been down for over 10 hours here,” user @Rikki_B told MacUser via Twitter on Thursday morning. “Seems to be no way to access [apps], trying to open them results in the login screen, can’t see a way around it.”

The problem seems to have emerged shortly before 22:04 (BST) on Wednesday 14 May, when the @AdobeCare account tweeted:

Over the next 24 hours, more than a thousand tweets followed responding to frustrated customers. Many reported that they could no longer access synced desktop fonts from Typekit, the webfont service acquired by Adobe in 2011. “Bad time to rely on Typekit for an ad,” tweeted graphic designer Jose Ariel Henriquez. “At first I thought it was just me but my coworkers can’t login either.”

Others found themselves cut off from developer and enterprise services that relied on a server connection. “FormsCentral is still not working!!” graphics coordinator Claire Phillippi tweeted to Adobe. “We need an ETA for our clients!!” “I try to open Muse – tells me it needs more info – then ID and PW do not work,” reported illustrator Bill Dussinger.

The biggest problems, though, were faced by users who couldn’t launch apps. Along with many others, Stefan Goodchild wondered: “Can @Adobe explain why all my Creative Cloud apps are all disabled when their login system has an outage? What about when I’m on a deadline?”

Their confusion was understandable: Adobe had categorically assured users and journalists, when replacing Creative Suite with Creative Cloud in May 2013, that apps only needed to check in with the server every 30 days, telling MacUser in a written reply that products would continue to work for 99 days in the absence of a server connection.

The @AdobeCare account seemed to have been given the same information, telling user Robert Lewis at 18:13 on Thursday: “Your apps should launch without checking w/ server.” But Lewis was far from being alone in finding this simply wasn’t the case. “Since I can’t sign in, it won’t let me use my photoshop right now,” complained photographer Linda Watson Nkosi, among many similar tweets.

Users were also surprised by the loss of Typekit desktop fonts. Although these fonts are effectively installed on the user’s Mac or PC, and available offline to all Adobe apps, what users hadn’t appreciated was that a failure to check in with the Adobe server could instantly render them inaccessible.

As time passed with no further updates to status.creativecloud.com and only boilerplate responses from @AdobeCare, customers became increasingly desperate. Creative Cloud products are typically used by creative professionals with obligations to meet.

“Refund on lost hours £££££” tweeted London-based video director Shane McCusker. “This is unacceptable,” fumed @Snickadelphia. “Makes our businesses look like garbage! I got FormsCentral bc I thought it was reliable?” Demonstrating a truly heroic level of positive thinking, @AdobeCare tweeted back:

MacUser was able to get some users, including @Rikki_B‘s studio, up and running by suggesting they disconnect from the internet before launching apps, preventing the server error from blocking access and forcing them to start in 28-day trial mode. Oddly, @AdobeCare never once offered this tip to users, even after being alerted to it by MacUser, instead insisting: “We apologize, there is no workaround until service is restored.”

At one point an Adobe social media staffer broke ranks and posted a link to an outdated set of Creative Cloud trial downloads at ProDesignTools.com, an Adobe-affiliated developer blog, advising: “You can download the software from here… We do prefer that you download from Adobe.” Using the direct download links would avoid having to connect to the Creative Cloud server and, again, enable 28 days of unhindered use.

At the time of writing, however, nearly 24 hours into the outage, Creative Cloud remains inaccessible to affected users. A series of questions emailed by MacUser to a representative of Adobe in the UK produced a prompt reply answering none of them but offering a statement:

Adobe login is currently offline, impacting access to Adobe services. We apologise for the disruption. We have identified the cause and are working to restore the service as quickly as possible. We will share updates on Twitter at @AdobeCare.

Among the issues we raised was whether customers would be compensated. This appeared to be answered by @AdobeCare‘s reply to McCusker:

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