Does RIM owe you more than an explanation?

Does RIM owe you more than an explanation?

Summary: Research in Motion got around to explaining its BlackBerry outage Tuesday into Wednesday, but it may be a case of too little too late in terms of customer perception. In a statement, RIM outlined what went wrong and started out with: RIM's in-depth diagnostic analysis of the service interruption that occurred in North America on Tuesday night is progressing well and RIM will continue to provide further information as it's available.

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TOPICS: BlackBerry
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Research in Motion got around to explaining its BlackBerry outage Tuesday into Wednesday, but it may be a case of too little too late in terms of customer perception.

In a statement, RIM outlined what went wrong and started out with:

RIM's in-depth diagnostic analysis of the service interruption that occurred in North America on Tuesday night is progressing well and RIM will continue to provide further information as it's available. RIM's first priority during any service interruption is always to restore service and then establish, monitor and maintain stability. Proper analysis can take several days or longer and RIM's commitment is to provide the most accurate and complete information possible in such situations.

RIM's contention that it wanted to take its time with its response is understandable. But it has an obligation to say something even if it's "we have no idea what's going on, but will fix it." Instead, RIM was inexplicably mum on the incident. Russell Shaw's post-mortem notes there's enough blame in the RIM food chain to go around.

In fact, RIM's statement is it at least partially designed to rule out concerns that would really hurt RIM's business and give rivals such as Motorola's Good Technology some ammunition.

RIM has been able to definitively rule out security and capacity issues as a root cause. Further, RIM has confirmed that the incident was not caused by any hardware failure or core software infrastructure.

Translation: You can count on us for your corporate communications needs. And by the way we're reliable and this was a fluke. 

So what was the culprit? A software upgrade that wasn't tested well. RIM said:

RIM has determined that the incident was triggered by the introduction of a new, non-critical system routine that was designed to provide better optimization of the system's cache. The system routine was expected to be non-impacting with respect to the real-time operation of the BlackBerry infrastructure, but the pre-testing of the system routine proved to be insufficient.

The new system routine produced an unexpected impact and triggered a compounding series of interaction errors between the system's operational database and cache. After isolating the resulting database problem and unsuccessfully attempting to correct it, RIM began its failover process to a backup system.

Although the backup system and failover process had been repeatedly and successfully tested previously, the failover process did not fully perform to RIM's expectations in this situation and therefore caused further delay in restoring service and processing the resulting message queue.

RIM then apologizes to customers and said it's enhancing its systems so similar problems don't happen again. The big question is that enough. In a Wall Street Journal story (subscription required), the question of customer compensation was raised. One analyst noted that when cable goes out you get free HBO.

What should RIM do to make good on its outage?

Topic: BlackBerry

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5 comments
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  • It's the industry

    The whole service provider industry, including Software as a service, is caught in this "don't disclose" situation.

    Yesterday my email provider went down for 4 hours -- yet for the first hours their "service status" page indicated everything was operational.

    Only a call to the provier uncovered the fact that their entire system was down and in fact this was a known issue with no ETA for a fix...

    Until people vote with their $$ and leave providers who don't offer timely updates, this type of behavior with continue.

    I don't think the smart money is fooled by RIM's lack of disclosure and it certainly will be used by competitors whether or not RIM makes any further official comments.
    anerpvar
  • In High Tech Really Ready???

    In the past several days, I've been wondering if today's high tech service providers really "get it". I've experienced multiple Vonage problems (repeatedly being told "no problems" for more than a week, then finally Vonage finally sent out an e-mail admitting wide spread problems), Blackberry's outage (initially with refusal to admit there was a problem, then providing no information), and a problem with my local ISP (who also denied a problem, then finally admitted there had been an outage, but refused to provide details). In today's economy, many of us rely on multiple high tech solutions for communication and fully expect the QOS to be five nines or better. Unfortunately, the suppliers are all from the software industry, where 80-90% service is deemed to be good enough. When outages in VoIP and wireless e-mail start to affect public safety, health care delivery, and emergency services (all of which were reported in these recent outages), it's time for these suppliers to get with the program or get out of business!
    andy101
    • Sad.....

      It's a sad state of affairs if our health care and public safety providers are relying solely on BlackBerry's for communication. I know a fair number of cops and firemen, I've never heard of any of them being dispatched via BlackBerry.

      If someone's job is so important that they must be in constant contact, then they would not be relying on a single communication method. Heck, there are very few systems that aren't at the mercy of a contractor w/ a backhoe.

      The bigger problem is the number of people who THINK their job is so important that they can't be away from email or their cell phone for 5 mins.

      There really was life on Earth before e-mail, Blackberry's and VoIP.
      Upsdrvr
  • Customers should pay RIM

    This is one case where a breakdown probably increased local social communication, restored family conversations and basically provided stress relief from a constant "AlwaysOn" barrage of email. (Check your blood pressure!)

    And most users could have eventually found their wayward email via their PC's and a traditional Internet connection. It just would not be as "instantaneous". Phone backup was there if you really needed to get a message out.

    The North American economy seems to have survived much better than it would under a power blackout.
    jim.courtney@...
    • Exactly!

      In fact, cell phone companies should start advertising how much of the country [i]isn't[/i] covered by their network- why is it that no one keeps this kind of data, or how none of the network guarantee X amount of dropped calls? "Hey, how many bars do you NOT have?"

      Forget that, lets talk about the wired services. The electric companies could run an ad campaign about the positive sides to power outages...

      And please. There's always the telegraph if you really need to get a message out. Or just regular mail! None of this newfangled electricity required boxes that you young whipper-snappers seem to be addicted to. My whole family would be satisfied with a stick and a string as our toy. And the family of 14 would share the one stick-and-string, the same way we shared our single potato we were able to have for dinner on a special occasion, such as a wedding. And the potato only cost 2 cents if you walked to the corner store on 8th street, which was uphill both ways, but did I complain? Never!...

      *FLASH*
      [i]Rainstorm, lightning and thunder. Trees sway in the background.

      Camera pans from room to room in a generic suburban home. A teenaged boy is playing on an XBOX. The mother turns on the home stereo and sits down on the couch to relax. A preteen girl is chatting with her friends online. Some small children are watching a educational video. The father is busy on the computer and on the phone- he is talking with a very businesslike but harried tone. The camera pans outside the house again...[/i]

      *FLASH*
      [i]Outside shot of the house, the lights shut off all around the house. Lots of shouts.[/i]

      [b]Voiceover:[/b] Generic Power Company: You'll thank us for these little moments

      FADE TO

      [i]Whole family playing board game by candlelight. Unintelligeble voices fade out as soft music fades in. Laughter permeates the music before it fades completely into the foreground.[/i]
      MoLerner