At around 11pm last night, there was a total outage of all the BBC websites, which lasted for an hour – and now a row has erupted between the Beeb and Siemens, its IT contractors.
Editor of the BBC News website, Steve Herrmann posted a blog about the outage saying that a problem occurred with the routers, which direct people to the websites. He added that the BBC has a back-up system in place to handle such an eventuality but this also failed and resulted in people being unable to access the BBC online content for an hour. Some internal BBC services were also affected by the outage. With people unable to access the site, where else were they going to turn but Twitter and the micro-blogging site was inundated with tweets from people wondering what the problem was. Even the popular Queen_UK account, had its say: “One has had the BBC switched back on. Keep calm and carry on.”
A row however emerged this morning when the BBC website reported on the outage quoting an internal email sent to the corporation by Siemens staff explaining what happened. The BBC report, which has now been amended to remove any mention of the memo, paraphrased the contents of the email saying: “Or, in layman's terms, they turned it off and back on again." Siemens executive are said to be furious that the email was made public. The contents of the email, which have been seen by MediaGuardian.co.uk, go on to explain in more detail the cause of the problem.
These comments have been replaced on the BBC report with comments from the BBC controller of digital distribution, Richard Cooper, who said the problem lay with the way users are directed to BBC websites: "For the more technically minded, this was a failure in the systems that perform two functions. The first is the aggregation of network traffic from the BBC's hosting centres to the internet. The second is the announcement of 'routes' onto the internet that allows BBC Online to be 'found'.”