Down for 4 days is a disgrace

Hamish Fletcher at NZ Herald reports:

Internet failures that have forced the Companies Office and 14 other Government websites offline for four days have been described as an international embarrassment.

Other websites caught up in the outage include the Personal Property Securities Register, Intellectual Property Office and Ministry of Consumer Affairs sites. …

The blamed the outage on upgrade work to the servers hosting the sites.

Unscheduled outages should be measured in minutes, not days.

The companies office site especially is a high demand site.

I have some experience with such a site. I was a director from 2002 to 2010 of the NZ Domain Name Registry Ltd, which is known as .nz Registry Services (NZRS). They operate the registry for .nz domain names.

The service level agreement with the Domain Name Commission Ltd (which I now serve on) specifies that the registry must be available 99.9% of the time (excluding scheduled outages notified in advance) on a monthly basis. This means that any unscheduled outages must last no longer than 43 minutes over a month, or the company would be in breach of the SLA.

To help achieve that, a lot of redundancy is built into the system. In fact there are parallel systems in Wellington and Auckland, so if one city is unavailable, the other system can kick in.

If NZRS had an unscheduled outage of four days, I imagine there would have been resignations from both the board and senior management, unless it was for the most exceptional and unavoidable reason. I certainly would have offered my resignation as a Director to the shareholder (InternetNZ).

The companies office website is excellent. I use it often, and it is one of the reasons we score highly on ease of business surveys. You can establish a company in under an hour, all online. But the more vital a service becomes, the more important it is that you ensure it remains up.

MED should at a minimum commission an independent report into what went wrong, and what they need to do to prevent such an outage in future.

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