Outage gives BlackBerry a black eye

The second lengthy BlackBerry outage in less than a year has prompted one consulting company to advise clients not to rely solely on the popular smart phones for critical email messages.

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The second lengthy BlackBerry outage in less than a year has prompted one consulting company to advise clients not to rely solely on the popular smart phones for critical email messages.

Enterprises that really need email responses in less than eight hours to run their businesses should have a backup for the BlackBerry, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney has said, in the wake of Monday’s crash that lasted about three hours. They should also set up an independent system to notify them whether an important contact has received or replied to an email message, he said.

Research In Motion said the outage was caused by a problem with an internal data routing system in the BlackBerry service infrastructure that had recently been upgraded. That upgrade was part of an ongoing expansion of the network, and this type of change had been done previously with no problems.

Monday's failure followed a longer outage in April last year that RIM attributed to a problem with a minor software upgrade and a subsequent glitch in a failover process.

There are about 12 million BlackBerry users worldwide. Monday’s crash affected users throughout the US and Canada, preventing them from sending or receiving email or carrying out some other functions, though no messages were permanently lost, RIM said.

But Dulaney had harsh words for RIM: "This does not appear to be a mission-critical system with the highest service-level agreements, and therefore, to entrust ... that a message will get to the end point is being a bit foolhardy." He advises enterprises that are worried about dependability to ask RIM for details of its backup system and make their own decisions.

After last year's outage, RIM said it would enhance aspects of its testing, monitoring and recovery processes. The company recently said: "RIM has made significant investments to improve its system recovery infrastructure and processes over the last year, which enabled service levels to return to normal quickly."


"They obviously didn't do as deep a dive as they needed to on disaster recovery issues," Dulaney said. But he acknowledged the failure could have been caused by something completely unexpected.

To get to and from the handhelds, email messages traverse a complex system involving mobile operator networks, RIM's network operation centres and BlackBerry Enterprise Servers within companies. Adding consumer features and keeping up with rapid customer growth have probably made it harder for RIM to keep its network running smoothly, said Albert Lin, an analyst at investment bank Sooner Cap.

But he added: "When it comes to reliable push email ... it's still hard to find a solution that works better than BlackBerry."

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