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National Grid computers locked-down in outage cock-up

'Country was safe' during 24 hour lie-down

Warning: electricity

National Grid suffered a major computer system outage last week, leaving many of its staff twiddling their fingers while services supplier Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) scurried to provide a fix.

The electricity and gas operator, which supplies energy to homes and businesses throughout England and Wales, confirmed the blunder to El Reg this morning.

A spokeswoman said: “National Grid experienced problems with its office IT systems last week.” She added that the cock-up did not “affect the separate operational systems and energy supplies were not affected".

Customers will be relieved to learn that “the country was safe” during the computer system outage.

“The problem caused inconvenient [sic] to office staff and had no impact on supply or distribution of energy,” said the National Grid spokeswoman.

One source claimed that Active Directory (AD) clusters on the energy giant’s Windows 2003-based server were deleted late last Tuesday. This would have locked office staff out of the Grid's computer network.

The source told us that a restore job kicked in shortly after the problem occurred, but claimed it took more than 24 hours for CSC, which earlier this week reported global annual revenues that topped $16bn, to bring the National Grid’s computer network back up and running.

Email was out for longer, though, with mail servers finally being recovered last Friday, according to the source.

The Register asked CSC, which, in January 2004 bagged an outsourcing contract – worth $470m over seven years – to support the National Grid’s IT infrastructure, if the energy provider’s AD had indeed been deleted.

We also wanted to find out why the IT services firm didn’t have a back-up or redundancy system in place to keep operations at the National Grid running smoothly for its 18,000 or so users while the company worked on a fix.

However, at time of writing, CSC is yet to provide us with any comment. ®

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