Excite@Home outage hits thousands

A server problem knocked out e-mail and Web connectivity for two days, though some customers claim it happened even earlier. And AOL suffered two outages Thursday.

E-mail and Web connectivity were lost to many of Excite@Home's 2.1 million North American customers from Tuesday until Thursday due to a corrupted domain name server database, a company spokeswoman said.

Separately, America Online (aol) suffered two outages Thursday. A hardware glitch kept 12,000 AOL subscribers from logging onto the network early in the day. And another hardware problem made e-mail inaccessible to thousands of AOL users for roughly 90 minutes.

Excite@Home (athm) engineers had the problem fixed by Thursday afternoon, said the company's Alison Bowman.

The problem was with the broadband provider's domain name server (DNS) database, a key portion of the Excite@Home backbone that serves the company's 2.3 million customers worldwide.

The system is routinely backed up every night. But apparently sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, Bowman said, "two files were being backed up simultaneously, but the disk space was full. So some of the files were dropped off."

Excite@Home subscribers lost mostly e-mail capabilities as a result. With the domain name server corrupted, the system doesn't know where to route e-mails.

Engineers were rebuilding the files based on a backup of the system done Monday night, Bowman said.

She added that the e-mail hardware, platform, and architecture were not contributing to the problem.

How many Excite@Home customers were without service is unclear. The corruption in the DNS files disabled portions of about 25 percent of the cable system serving North American customers.

At a maximum, that means about 500,000 customers -- although Bowman said the figure may be "a lot less."

But some Excite@Home subscribers told a different story in a series of e-mails sent to ZDNet News.

Some wrote that they phoned Excite@Home technical support on Wednesday and were greeted with recorded messages telling them the shutdown was nationwide.

They were also told to expect their e-mail service to return late that afternoon, or about 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, according to e-mails sent to ZDNet News.

Some also said they lost service as early as Sunday.

The snafu may dampen the company's outlook, which has been upbeat since its third-quarter announcement of an additional 500,000 new subscribers. Analysts were expecting the company to add 400,000 new subscribers in that time period.

Excite@Home is committed to amassing a subscriber base of 3 million by the end of the year. It has also vowed to have 6 million subscribers by the end of 2001 and 10 million by the end of 2002.


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