Massive BlackBerry outage in Europe, Middle East and Africa

By Lee Kaelin on October 11, 2011, 11:00 AM

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and phone networks in several countries were forced to apologize to tens of millions of users yesterday, after a server failure caused devices' Internet, email and Blackberry Messenger services to stop working. The server failed Monday at around 11:00am UK time at Blackberry's data center in Slough, England. The outage caused disruption for handset users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

RIM is yet to release a full statement regarding the problem, but a number of phone carriers used Twitter to keep customers informed, including T-Mobile who stated: "There is an issue with BlackBerry services at present. RIM are investigating this at present."

At around 3:30pm RIM tweeted, "some users in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) are experiencing issues." Batelco, a Bahraini mobile phone provider confirmed the issue as well, saying the entire country was hit by the outage.

RIM uses a unique system for their BlackBerry handsets in that communications are sent and received via encrypted servers from the company's own data centers. This provides good security for businesses and consumers alike as all Internet, email and BBM content sent between the phones and servers is fully encrypted. However, server failures like the one experienced yesterday can also spell disaster for the company, highlighting the problems with operating such a system, especially given that outages are becoming more commonplace now.

"They have their own clunky infrastructure to do something that you don't really need a clunky infrastructure to do anymore." said a former RIM employee in a statement after hearing about the service disruptions.

He added that the phone manufacturer has been ignoring problems with its server architecture for years. "They didn't start looking at scalability until about 2007, when they had around 8m active devices. The attitude was, we're going to grow and grow but making sure our infrastructure can support it isn't a priority."

These latest problems are not going to help their current situation. RIM was reported to have 800,000 PlayBooks in stock in the second half of last month, with strong competition in the phone and tablet market from Android and Apple iOS powered devices eating into their sales, as confirmed by RIM reporting a steep drop in quarterly profits last month.

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