BlackBerry maker defends Canada e-mail route

Research in Motion (RIM) has backed the routing of BlackBerry e-mail traffic via its Canadian headquarters following last week's disruption to users of Telstra's BlackBerry service blamed on problems with primary and secondary links to North America. The disruption saw customers unable to access e-mail on their handheld devices from 10am Wednesday to Friday and consequently compromised their ability to conduct business or deal with personal messages.

Research in Motion (RIM) has backed the routing of BlackBerry e-mail traffic via its Canadian headquarters following last week's disruption to users of Telstra's BlackBerry service blamed on problems with primary and secondary links to North America.

The disruption saw customers unable to access e-mail on their handheld devices from 10am Wednesday to Friday and consequently compromised their ability to conduct business or deal with personal messages. It subsequently became clear the e-mail redirect to Canada was a non-negotiable clause in RIM's contracts with telecommunications companies worldwide.

"So how many people knew exactly where their e-mail was being routed?" asked a ZDNet Australia&nbsp reader during the outage. "Why the heck BlackBerry needs to call Canada is beyond me," wrote another.

However, RIM's Asia-Pacific vice president, Norm Lo, said the e-mail policy -- which saw "hundreds of millions" of compressed and encrypted e-mails forwarded daily through the company's Canada centre -- had been implemented for a number of reasons.

Firstly, said Lo, "by going through a network operations centre, you can assure the enterprise customer that messages will be delivered to any user on any wireless network without any complicated work at their end.

"For example, a company can enable users on different networks without having to deal with establishing direct connections to each of the carriers they need to subscribe to."

"Secondly, we can ensure that there is a secure, unbreachable pipeline from behind the enterprise firewall right to the end user device and back," he said. The company uses the AES or Triple-DES encryption standards to ensure this.

"Finally, there are many economic, performance and service related benefits for Australian customers in being able to leverage the centrally managed network operations centre in Canada," said Lo.

Such benefits, he said, included more efficient data routing, higher service levels and easier access to expert technical resources in the event of a problem.

"This is a far more efficient architecture than a decentralised system could offer."

Lo claimed all serious players in the 'push' e-mail market must take the same approach, "for reasons of manageability, security and efficiency".

Not everyone was surprised to learn where their e-mail went, with one BlackBerry user asserting he had known about RIM's e-mail routing since "day one". The ZDNet Australia&nbsp reader backed RIM's security, pointing out the e-mail was encrypted before it left Australia.

Supporting this point of view is the government's Defence Signals Directorate, which in April approved the BlackBerry for secure communications by government employees.

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