Telstra's Huge Outage Had One Small Cause

February 12, 2016

By Steve Anderson - Contributing Writer

Australia's Telstra (News - Alert) mobile network only recently suffered what proved to be its biggest outage ever, and as it turns out, the cause was almost shockingly simple. The word from Business Insider's Australian branch spelled it out, and as it turns out, some simple power protection hardware might well have prevented Telstra's biggest outage yet.

Essentially, what shut down the network far and wide was a bit of “human error,” in that a key component of the network was accidentally shut off. One core node, reports noted, was malfunctioning, and an engineer, in a bid to fix it, shut the node down and restarted it while not following standard procedure for shutdowns. With that core node out of operation, Telstra's customers were then moved to the rest of the nodes, and the system became so badly congested that network failures became endemic. Both 3G and 4G networks alike took the hit, and that meant not only Internet services proved unavailable, but even making and receiving calls were out of the picture.

This delivered a particular hit to businesses that depended on a working network; businesses with Eftpos terminals found them unusable, Australian taxis using Cabcharge terminals were out of action, and regional Internet was just out. Even the West Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services noted that its short message system (SMS) warning system for a fire zone was “compromised.”

The outage itself ran for about three hours or so—from “midday” to “a little after 3 p.m.”, according to reports—and since Telstra's network is comprised of 10 nodes nationwide, it's easy to see why the loss of 10 percent of those nodes could have done some deeply unpleasant things to the network. By way of compensation, Telstra will be offering free data to all its customers on Sunday.

While there will be investigations going on—particularly to ask why the network went down when nine of its 10 nodes were still operational—it's easy to wonder if simple power protection hardware, like that offered by Minuteman, might have been the network's saving grace. Minuteman's systems provide a critical bridge of power when the power is cut, allowing users to save work and launch some backups, or even keep working through an outage altogether, if it's of a short enough duration. It's possible that a power backup system might well have kept that node up and running even through its improper shutdown, though it may not have, given that all the facts aren't in yet.

It's not easy to plan for the loss of network access, especially in an age where so much of what we do every day depends on the network. Having backup plans anyway—including backup for the network—can mean the difference between work time lost and profit gained. Minuteman's backup power systems can be a big part of such a backup plan, and offer a great possibility of a workday salvaged even in the worst conditions.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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