Mystery surrounds a huge BlackBerry outage in the northern hemisphere with manufacturer RIM failing to make the cause of the problem public to users, which include many businesses who rely on the service. The outages are likely to cause particular concern in New Zealand as it appears the BlackBerry may be the sole approved handset for a forthcoming all-of-government mobile contract.
Companies and consumers that use on the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) were unable to access email, BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) instant messaging and all other web services in a severe 12-hour outage on 11 October that hit Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa.
It has been widely reported that the problem was down to a "server problem" in RIM's Slough datacentre in the UK.
But businesses typically have "failover systems" and "back-up mirroring", designed to allow their data to be quickly saved and re-routed to a back-up datacentre if there is an outage. The fact that a "server problem" in a single suburban UK location took out BlackBerry's consumer and small business market in much of the world will not only be worrying to its customers, but also the mobile operators which resell the BlackBerry service along with RIM's BlackBerry handsets.
Computerworld UK asked RIM whether there was a server failover system in place at Slough, why it apparently did not work, and why customer data was not re-routed via a back-up datacentre - if one exists for the EMEA region affected.
RIM was not exactly forthcoming. "Sorry we aren't going to be able to answer your specific questions because we don't typically get information about the cause of service issues right away," said a spokesperson.
"The immediate priority is always to return service to normal operation," she added. "Once service has returned and is stable, the teams then begin investigating the cause of the issue, which can take several days."
A number of the mobile operators themselves were not alleviating the BlackBerry pains of their customers. Many BlackBerry users were given little information about the outage from their mobile provider and had to resort to social networking platform Twitter on their PCs, to get updates from others affected who had rung up their mobile provider on higher rate support numbers.
As voice calls and SMS systems weren't affected by the outages, the mobile operators themselves could have sent their customers an SMS alert about the problem but chose not to. A customer notice on the main Vodafone UK website timed at 5.30pm simply said it was aware of a "problem", and would report further when it had more details - that was 7.5 hours after the outage.
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