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Furious Redbus users demand honesty

Companies whose equipment was damaged or destroyed by a mysterious power spike last week want to know why there was a single point of failure and what compensation is on offer
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor on

Irate Redbus customers have responded with scorn to chief executive Mike Tobin's pleas for them to stick with the company, following problems at one of its London data centres which knocked many companies offline for hours last week.

Some of those affected are also demanding more honesty from Redbus, as they prepare to hit the company with compensation claims by the end of this week.

The nascent Redbus user group say their existence is not a sign of loyalty, as Tobin claimed yesterday, but an effort to get a response from the hosting company. "That's nice spin, but hardly in line with the reality," said Mike Tims, of mtn-i, who is coordinating customer responses. "Everyone I have spoken to would like to move, but it is complicated to do so. Changing facilities is not like changing your brand of cornflakes."

"We are, to all intents and purposes, held with a gun to our heads," said an ISP customer of Redbus who asked to remain anonymous. "When things go wrong like this, it's not easy for us to jump ship. How do you turn off a few thousand customers while you move them, wait for DNS and Internet routes to propagate, and so on? The work involved in moving is huge."

Customers are not satisfied with Redbus' explanations following last week's outage and believe there must be serious problems in its set-up. "The way they handled this in no way explained the £20,000 worth of equipment we lost, or the equipment lost by others," the ISP added.

"If one company alone lost nearly 30 industrial grade uninterruptible power supplies in the incident then obviously something extremely serious went wrong and so far Redbus aren't coming clean abut it," said another user. A third commented: "[Redbus' explanation] does not seem to square with the number of power supply and hard disk failures that seem to have resulted."

Many feel that Redbus was not delivering on specific promises about its infrastructure: "[The Redbus facilities manager] specifically stated that the switchgear panel was in effect a single point of failure in the whole power system," said a user. "This came like an absolute blind-side blow to me given the extraordinary levels Redbus go to, to promote their level of redundancy in every critical system. Surely the panel which feeds mains and generator power to the UPS units is a fairly critical system!?"

Yesterday, Tobin promised a more detailed incident report that would explain these issues, but this has so far not been supplied to ZDNet UK.

"What I saw was complete chaos," said one of the roughly twenty-five customers who visited the site personally during the outage last Tuesday . "In the control room, the screens were blank. There was no security, because the biometric systems were linked to the computer and the power was down. I walked in and I could have been anyone."

This user fixed his server and persuaded Redbus to power it back up, only to find it was offline because an ISP's rack was out of action with a "fried" Cisco router. "They didn't know what was going on," said the user. "The first priority should be bandwidth."

None of the Redbus customers who have spoken to ZDNet UK has received any automatic offer of compensation from Redbus, and it's unclear what Redbus' compensation policy is. Those affected by last week's outage are adamant they deserve.

"I've made our position clear to our account manager in a meeting earlier this week," said a user. "We fully expect to receive an explanation that actually explains why we lost equipment, and also that we expect to be recompensed for the loss of equipment."

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