BlackBerry (BB) services were down for three days in India and many countries in West Asia and South America. This outage, as announced by Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of BB handsets, was caused by a 'core switch failure'. Thankfully, the company has now managed to restore their usual services (internet browsing, emails and messenger service) and has cleared the accumulated messages. Interestingly, voice and short messaging services were not hit by the outage.
However, the disruption caused a lot of damage and irked BB users who use the service to access emails, social networking sites and other needs. The power of the digital culture, which almost all of us have been imbibing over the last few years, was evident during this outage. We felt similar difficulties in April last year when undersea internet cables were damaged. But this time around, the 'disconnectivity' seemed more pronounced as people have now become more dependent on their phones.
These problems happen either due to technical glitches or sabotages, which are growing by the day in the cyber world. To address such issues, organisations build various levels of back-ups in their networks so that even if a primary server fails, a back-up or recovery server can take care of the data traffic and connectivity.
Over the years, a lot of attention has been paid to improving the back-up infrastructure thanks to the steady increase in the number of threats from hackers who try to disrupt traffic by not allowing servers to transmit data and execute requests. The result has of this strong focus on back-ups been impressive. That's why this week's problem in BB's services comes as a surprise. It puts a question mark on how RIM will handle its increasing subscriber base and data traffic.
In fact, the outage is a wake-up call for RIM and other companies that have products and systems that are designed to run via the internet. It is also a reminder to the users that they can't completely negate the possibility of technical disruptions, no matter how advanced the systems are. What matters is the entire 'digital ecosystem', which - and we should not forget it - also has its share of downsides.
But RIM, after facing pressure from various service providers, must take an urgent call on how to better manage its technology, the re-routing process and the huge volumes of data.
Subimal Bhattacharjee heads a defence multinational in India and writes on cyberspace and security issues. The views expressed by the author are personal.