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Parliament network prang: 'Supplier done it', no Office 365 yet

Ancient creaky building's ancient creaky network falls over, bunfight ensues

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A botched network upgrade at the Houses of Parliament caused comms bottlenecks, web outages and continuing capacity woes – and could yet delay the full rollout of Office 365 for our lords and masters.

Director of Parliamentary ICT Joan Miller emailed staff on 4 March to apologise for the "frustrating and inconvenient" episode that "many people" experienced over the previous few weeks.

"The problems may have shown themselves in freezing or slowing down of your web browsing, video via the web, slower delivery of emails sent outside Parliament, use of Office 365 and other internet dependent systems," stated Miller.

She added that, contrary to popular belief on the Parliamentary estate, the deployment of Microsoft's fluffy service was not to blame for the web blockage. It was actually down to an external supplier contracted to beef up the ancient building's network.

"Unfortunately, in January, one of our suppliers involved in this upgrade inadvertently introduced an error in the supporting software. This had the opposite effect of that intended; that is, it reduced the capacity of the access to the internet," Miller added.

As the estate is used by several thousand people, "these IT connections and security systems are very complex", and required a "significant amount of investigative work" to identify the problem.

"Regrettably, but unavoidably, this has taken some time. We have now pinpointed the cause and the solutions which will allow for further growth in the future," the IT director claimed.

Work to improve the overall capacity was due to be completed by 6 March and in the run up to that deadline Miller said her minions were testing and making some alterations.

In the short term there remains a risk of further network disruption, she warned.

"We will not commence further migrations of Microsoft 365 (sic) until we are sure that we have resolved this network issue," revealed Miller.

Office 365 is being piloted by some folk on the estate and was scheduled for a wider roll out in May but there are now some doubts that this will be the case.

"I can't see that happening given the problems they've had with the preliminary stages," said a Parliamentary source. "It will be nearer to the end of the year".

"[The ICT team] is trying to move to the most modern version of Office and cloud computing, and it is working on VoiP calls to the office from anywhere in the world. I don't think Parliamentary servers can manage that workload," he added.

A spokeswoman for Parliament told El Chan it is "working with the supplier to ensure that the services remain resilient in the future".

But she refused to name and shame the supplier. Do you know who it is? Get in touch - click the author's name at the top of this story - and let us know. ®

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