#CyberFLASH: Computer outage shut down key government websites, email for hours

cra-passwords-security_211076204-e1402005190177A significant equipment failure at the Aviation Parkway Data Centre on Montreal Road brought down a number of federal government websites Friday morning and left thousands of employees without email service, according to an insider familiar with the Centre.

The emergency shutdown began Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and continued over the lunch hour Friday. Service appears to have been restored around 1:30pm. The government’s information technology department – Shared Services Canada – told affected departments Friday that its technicians had removed a faulty power distribution unit as of 5:00 a.m. but work would continue at least through the morning.

The emergency shutdown is likely related to delays in the government’s efforts to consolidate nearly 500 data centres into just seven.

“They’ve spent years starving the older data centres,” the source said, adding that the centres have become vulnerable to disruption as hardware becomes obsolete. Some of the software that’s supposed to keep everything running smoothly is also obsolete.

Phone and email queries at Public Works and Shared Services were not returned as of noon. The websites of both departments were down Friday morning. Users of GCDOCS – the government’s automated bilingual archiving and information management system were particularly affected.

Given the huge number of aging data centres in the government’s national network, these types of outages could become a common feature of public sector work in the months to come. Although the government has tendered contracts to build the new data centres, there is apparently little or no backup at the moment to accommodate failures in the older centres.

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