Monday, 16 March 2009

Communications breakdown

The Diocese of Manchester reports: Bishop silenced by email failure:

1 million spams and a virus bring down Bishop of Manchester & Church of England email systems.

The central offices of the Diocese of Manchester were without email from 3-13 March (10 days) following a virus infecting its servers and an unprecedented amount of spam. The problems have also affected the Bishops of Manchester and other senior clergy in the diocese.

While some emails have now been restored, others are still not getting through, particularly to satellite offices.

Two weeks ago, following continuing concerns over missing e-mails and an unacceptably high occurrence of breaks in service, the diocese changed its IT provider.

The new IT technicians discovered a virus and tried to remove it. While doing so they found that it had severely corrupted systems. This has meant that, since 3 March, e-mails sent to the Diocese of Manchester central offices, its Archdeacons, and the Bishops of Bolton and Middleton have not been received, nor have they been able to send e-mails. E-mails sent via the Diocese of Manchester website have not been delivered either.

In addition, an audit of the 6000 pieces of communications sent by the Bishop of Manchester over the past ten months revealed that a significant amount of electronic mail, though sent by the Bishop, may have been deleted during sending or has simply not been delivered by the system. In addition, many emails sent to the Bishop may not have been received.

A spokesman for the Bishop said, “Given the nature and scale of the problem it is likely that the Bishop will never fully know which e-mails failed to arrive nor the number of emails that were sent by others to him but were never received by his office. If people have written or emailed the Bishop of Manchester during the past ten months and not received a reply, it is likely that a system failure is to blame.”

“The new IT providers have been given the brief of establishing, as an urgent priority, a cast iron IT system for Bishops, Archdeacons and our central administration. If an e-mail is sent to us and a reply or acknowledgement has not been received within three days, then individuals should follow-up the message with a phone call. As a policy, where possible, people should always request a receipt when sending e-mail to us.”

As the Manchester Evening News reports:

The problem is particularly embarrassing because Mr McCulloch serves as the CoE’s communications spokesman.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 2:49pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Here's a good a reason as any for dioceses and parishes to outsource their email. We've been using Google Apps since it came out and have been delighted with it. But there are other online hosted email accounts (like Tuffmail and Fastmail) and even online Exchange providers - any of whom would have helped prevent the situation above.

As we recognize that e-communications have become mission-critical to our daily work, this sort of failure is becoming something less and less acceptable.

Just because someone has the expertise to do something themselves doesn't mean that they should. (I speak from my own painful experience here.)

Posted by: Nicholas Knisely on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 5:10pm GMT

Several obvious culprits spring to mind. Christian charity forbids their naming.

Posted by: john on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 7:11pm GMT

I don't know the term 'mission critical'. Is it new labour?

Has email replaced being with people and relating to people in the same time and place then ?As I say I have no idea,wild surmise as I don't know of this term.

I do hope to receive minsitry from an actual person who comes along-side me.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 8:41pm GMT

Who's this "Mr McCulloch" chap?

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 9:44pm GMT

If only this would happen to more bishops, the communion might find its way out of its present difficulties...

Posted by: Rob Leduv on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 12:42am GMT

"Mission critical" is actually a military term to describe things which are essential if the mission is to be accomplished. These things may be logistical (enough fuel for the tanks) or capacity (enough divisions of soldiers) or preconditions (sufficient and accurate intelligence).

[Not strictly relevant to the thread, but it is worth noting that the US intervention in Iraq was lacking at least two of the three things I mentioned.]

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 2:49am GMT

"The problem is particularly embarrassing because Mr McCulloch serves as the CoE’s communications spokesman."

Priceless! The muted Communications spokesman . . . and just in time for the 97th anniversary of the Unsinkable Titanic. Why do we humans find it so hard to be humble, when it should be so easy? ;-X

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 4:41am GMT

"The central offices of the Diocese of Manchester were without email from 3-13 March (10 days)"
- and I just thought it was a normal week!

Posted by: Spideog on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 3:31pm GMT

Hmmmm, I don't recall Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostles, or St. Paul having these kinds of problems. Were the servers and spokespersons more reliable back then?

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 6:53pm GMT

I blame Common Worship! Conspicuously lacking in its MP & EP is any sense of need for protection from danger and the enemy, unlike the robust collects in the Book of Common Prayer.

Posted by: MH on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 9:38pm GMT

" "The central offices of the Diocese of Manchester were without email from 3-13 March (10 days)"
- and I just thought it was a normal week!"

I eat my words! Diocesan (snail-mail) mailings today weighed in at one and a half pounds.

Posted by: Spideog on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 1:25pm GMT
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