Cabinet Office hit by Web site outage

The Cabinet Office's Web presence has been disrupted over the last two days after routine maintenance went wrong

The Cabinet Office Web site was forced offline on Wednesday because of technical problems, the government has admitted.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told ZDNet UK that the site was offline due to 'maintenance being carried out by our ISP", which is understood to be Pipex.

The period of downtime began on Wednesday morning. The site was available by Wednesday evening, but had vanished again by Thursday morning, reappearing by Thursday lunchtime.

According to Cabinet Office Webmaster David Stiffell, the downtime was caused by a network routing problem.

"Basically the hosters are moving facilities — this is a third-party problem with their network routing," said Stiffell. Stiffell added that the Cabinet Office uses a number of telecoms service providers, and that Pipex hosts its servers.

Pipex had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Stiffell declined to discuss whether the terms of the government's contracts with its suppliers would allow it to claim compensation, but he indicated that the Cabinet Office is not pleased with the situation.

"Would you be happy? I'm not," said Stiffell.

Stiffell explained that its Web site was successfully moved from Pipex to servers run by BT, but that the router problems occurred with the migration back from BT to Pipex.

"It was planned maintenance, and the move to the BT service was completed successfully. But when we moved back, our ISP had router problems," said Stiffell.

Last week the Cabinet Office published eAccessibility of public sector services in the European Union, a comprehensive report on accessibility of government online services across the European Union (EU).

The report revealed that only 3 percent of the 436 online public service Web sites achieved a Level A rating, which is considered to be the minimum standard under the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. A further 10 percent achieved limited level A and 17 percent marginal fail Level A. The remaining 70 percent were found to fail Level A. No Web sites tested reached the higher double A standard, according to the Cabinet Office.

The Cabinet Office didn't see a contradiction between its efforts to promote eAccessibility and its Web site problems.

"It could be more ironic — if the issue of resilience had been covered in the report," said Stiffell. "eAccessibility and resilience are separate issues," he added.