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Kiwis drop the ball on government server upgrade

Aotearoa: 404 Not Found... for two days

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On Saturday 26 September, while the All Blacks were flattening France (37-17) in the Rugby World Cup at Eden Park, the New Zealand government geeks were in the server rooms, upgrading machines hosting crucial government business sites.

Unlike the All Blacks, the government geek team scored not just an own goal, but completely lost the game and plot.

They fouled up a server upgrade to the point that New Zealanders are now left without access to 14 crucial government business websites for at least two days and maybe longer.

Exactly what went wrong has yet to be revealed. The Ministry of Economic Development says the outage “occurred during preparation work on Saturday [24 Sept] evening to upgrade the servers hosting the websites".

No further details have been provided by the ministry.

The sites in question include the Consumer Affairs; Companies Office; Insolvency and Trustee Service; Motor Vehicle Traders Register; Radio Spectrum Management; and Government Procurement Solutions – amongst others.

What’s more, an Outage Notice published by the Ministry of Economic Development says the websites will be unavailable until 28 September at least. Some of the ministry services relying on the sites – such as the Companies Office – are extending their deadlines by five working days on restoration of services.

Kiwis in a rush are asked to use Facebook, Twitter, email and plain old phones to contact government agencies.

The New Zealand arm of Telstra – TelstraClear – is hosting the NZ government sites affected by the outage.

A quick poke at sites such as business.govt.nz, via netcraft.com, show that they run open-source software such Debian GNU/Linux as the operating system, and Apache 1.3.33 as the web server.

According to the Apache Software Foundation, version 1.3.x has been declared "end of life”. Users have been asked to move to version 2.2 of the very popular open-source webserver. ®

Bootnote

A spokesman from TelstraClear has been in touch to emphasise that, "While TelstraClear does host the affected sites, the outage is nothing to do with TelstraClear or the hosting." He added that TelstraClear has "offered the assistance of our experts if that would help speed the resolution." Which is nice.

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