Extended Email Outage At The White House

by Bharat Suneja

One would have thought the email woes that plagued the previous administration would be a thing of the past. Apparently not.

Members of the still-transitioning Obama team have been without email for over eight hours, thanks to a “server outage”. Ironically, even the tech-savvy Obama administration is not immune to the perpetual email woes at the White House. “Yes, Virginia, the Commander-In-Chief is without email!” Or, as CNN puts it, the “Outlook Server” went down.

Every time I come across another such incident, I can’t help but wonder about the state of messaging systems, archiving, high availability, and disaster recovery at the White House. The former administration has had all sorts of trouble with all of these, and it seems to have extended to the new, tech-savvy Obama administration.

What do the White House IT operations folks go through when these events take place? It’s hard enough to tell a Manager, CIO or CEO of a mid-size company that the email won’t be up for 8 hours, but how do you tell the President of the United States? Particularly a President who refuses to be without a BlackBerry?

On the positive side, press secretary Robert Gibbs, who apologized on live television for the email outage, thinks working the old-fashioned way in a world without email is certainly a lot less stressful:

“I haven’t had a less stressful day in five years,” Gibbs joked, pointing at the BlackBerry on his desk and noting that it would make a good coaster. “The president can have my BlackBerry as far as I’m concerned.”

More from Michael D. Shear in E-Mail Outage Forces White House to Operate the Oldfangled Way on WashingtonPost.com.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous January 27, 2009 at 9:04 am

Price Waterhouse Cooper and Carnegie-Mellon’s CyLab have recent surveys that show the senior executive class to be, basically, clueless regarding IT risk and its tie to overall enterprise (business) risk. Data breaches and thefts are due to a lagging business culture – and people aren’t getting the training they need. For example: Microsoft patched for this worm 4 months ago. As CIO, I’m constantly seeking things that work, in hopes that good ideas make their way back to me – check your local library: A book that is required reading is “I.T. WARS: Managing the Business-Technology Weave in the New Millennium.” It also helps outside agencies understand your values and practices.
The author, David Scott, has an interview that is a great exposure: http://businessforum.com/DScott_02.html
The book came to us as a tip from an intern who attended a course at University of Wisconsin, where the book is an MBA text. It has helped us to understand that, while various systems of security are important, no system can overcome laxity, ignorance, or deliberate intent to harm. Necessary is a sustained culture and awareness; an efficient prism through which every activity is viewed from a security perspective prior to action.
In the realm of risk, unmanaged possibilities become probabilities – read the book BEFORE you suffer a bad outcome – or propagate one.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: