Just hours after recovering from an outage that lasted most of Monday, the Blackberry data network is offline again for many users in Europe and the Middle East. Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry devices and manages its data network, is compounding its problems with an epic failure in communicating with its users, who are venting their frustration loudly on social networks.
UPDATE: Blackberry has issued a statement providing some additional details on the outage: "The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed.”
Monday's outage left millions of Blackberry users in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) unable to access their e-mail, instant messages or the Internet. Early this morning Blackberry posted a message to its UK Twitter account saying all Blackberry services had been restored. But within hours, users were complaining that the service was down again. Research in Motion was again slow to acknowledge the new problems, forcing its carrier partners to publicly point the finger.
"We are aware that there are still issues with Blackberry services," the Orange network tweeted. "RIM are investigating and we will update when we have any info." Soem partners were more direct. "SEACOM is not responsible for the Blackberry service (BIS) outage currently being experienced," the South African telecom company tweeted.
The company finally acknowledged the new issues at about via its BlackberryHelp Twitter account. "Some areas have messaging delays and impaired browsing," it said. "We’re working to restore normal service as quickly as possible." Late Tuesday the company said the problems had spread to include India, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.
RIM's sparse updating stands in marked contrast to the steady stream of complaints from frustrated users, mixed in with links to outage reports and jokes.
The importance of social media in managing customer communication is well established. More than two years ago we noted that "Twitter has emerged as perhaps the most important venue for discussion of hosting outages, powering fast-moving conversations in which unhappy customers share information and complaints. Providers ignore this development at their peril."