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Crash! Power spike takes out NHS servers

NHS IT flounders while private sector flies

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Computer crash investigators are looking for the “unusual” factors that left up to 80 NHS trusts sharing the same data centre without patient information systems while private sector organisations had their services restored with little delay.

80 NHS customers using CSC's foremost British data centre in Maidstone, Kent, had their patient information systems cut off since 10am Sunday morning.

Fifty of these systems, which tell hospitals and health centres who will be attending which appointments and operations when, were operational by the close of play yesterday, two and a half days since they failed. The rest are not expected to be cleared until Thursday.

Private clients using CSC's Maidstone centre, meanwhile, were up and running again yesterday. CSC is thought to have about 100 UK customers, many of whom would be using the Maidstone centre.

A spokesman for the firm said “something unusual has obviously happened” for the private clients to have been restored so quickly while the NHS systems where still being restored.

“Had there been an ordinary set of circumstances the recovery would have been quicker,” he said.

The original outage was preceded on Sunday with a team of engineers being called to investigate a problem with the interruptible power supplies that usually prevent losses of electricity to the computers in CSC's Maidstone data centre.

While they where working an unexpected power spike was shot around the data centre, taking out its main servers. The storage network was closed instantly to protect the data it held for CSC customers. For some reason, the failover system, which should have provided a near continuous service in the event of a problem, failed.

One reason why it is taking so long for CSC customers to have their systems brought online again is that each computer disk on the storage network has to be tested before its service can be delivered to the live environment again.®

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