The Problem With the Centralised Nature Of RIM’s BlackBerry Services

RIM (BlackBerry)If you are a BlackBerry user, or in fact have come into contact with one over the past few days, you would seen them on edge and angry as the famed BlackBerry email and messaging services have seen some major downtime recently. Not good for those with a CrackBerry addiction at all.

Yesterday BlackBerry users across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa were all having trouble getting onto the BlackBerry services (the ones that people buy BlackBerry’s to use), and RIM issued a statement apologising for the prolonged downtime, saying:

We are currently working to resolve an issue impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. In the meantime, we apologise to you for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

Everyone has downtime every now and again – computer parts fail just like people – but the BlackBerry problems lasted a surprisingly long time. And then today users are again facing similar issues – which begs the question as to whether the centralised and proprietary nature of BlackBerry’s services are not part of the problem.

BlackBerry users are able to send encrypted emails and messages due to the special Blackberry setup with the phone networks where BlackBerry traffic is routed through BlackBerry servers between each user. This is great for security, but does give a very long bottleneck at which failures could happen leaving users out in the cold. When sending a normal email, users can access their email accounts in a variety of ways – through a webmail interface, or a specific app, or through any client software that supports the IMAP or POP3 standards. If you have an internet connection, but for some reason cannot connect to your email – then you can try other routes – and the only time you won’t have any access to your email at all is if the actual main email servers are down.

In the BlackBerry setup, however, you can only connect to BlackBerry services using a BlackBerry device – and there are no other work arounds for users to try if for some reason they cannot access their email. No, if some of the Blackberry nodes are down, or there is packet loss in any part of the BlackBerry chain – then as far as the user is concerned – there is no BlackBerry service. And this is what we’ve seen over the last couple of days – there is no slack to point users to a different route.

As we move towards relying on the cloud more and more with different services – maybe we can all learn a lesson that keeping everything and relying upon a proprietary system may be as bad for fail-safes as it can be good for security.

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