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Friday, 17 August 2007

What a difference a day makes...

Having posted my blog on the viability of Skype as a business-class communications service on Wednesday, here we have a story from Telecom Web, datelined Thursday...


Skype has a global 'heart attack'.

"An unknown number of millions of e-Bay VoIP subsidiary Skype users around the world today found themselves without service, due to an admitted software glitch that could take a day or more to fix.

Skype's in-and-out VoIP connections to standard dial-up phones allegedly still had a heartbeat, according to hearbeat.skype.com, the company's online network-status-reporting site.

In a brief posting on the "heartbeat" site, the company said simply: "Some of you may be having problems logging into Skype. Our engineering team has determined that it's a software issue. We expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours." Skype also cited what it called "peer-to-peer network issues" in an earlier statement. At the time that was posted, it appears Skype's problems had started at least 14 hours earlier.

In addition to the inability of Skype users to log on and to make calls to other Skype users, there also were scattered reports that Skype's short message service (SMS) was taking anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to deliver text messages to cellphones.

Just what the software problem is was not disclosed, but suspicions were it might be linked to some "routine maintenance" that had been scheduled to take place yesterday. That was only supposed to affect entry to some Web-based paid services, and not the free Skype-to-Skype calls. The issue apparently does not involve Skype's client software, installed on end-user PCs, although Skype did release a new version of that software not long ago. The company advised users to keep their client software running; in that way, they would be automatically logged in once the mysterious problem is fixed.

As the outage continued, upset Skype users from a long list of countries began posting to various blogs. The most rattled, to no surprise, were those who had eschewed their "plain old telephone service (POTS)" and gone whole-hog for Skype's VoIP service. Many of those log entries pined for the "five nines" reliability of POTS - a standard of service VoIP has yet to approach, although a little bit of quick math does reveal that, if Skype is out for just 24 to 48 hours, it would be able to claim "two nines" availability - i.e., 99 percent of the time it works. Just not today.

Just how many millions attempted to log on and failed will, of course, never be known. Typically Skype, which claims a phenomenal 220 million accounts, is said to have between 5 million and 6 million users online at any given time, and it reported a high of 9 million in January."

The words 'eat', 'my' and 'hat' come to mind.

That's the comms business for you. Interesting.



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