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Netcom nears 24-hour email outage

Many of the ISP's subscribers find themselves without email access because of an outage that has stretched close to the 24-hour mark.

Numerous Netcom ISP subscribers found themselves without email access last night because of an outage that has stretched close to the 24-hour mark.

The prolonged outage is the second since MindSpring Enterprises took over the company in January. MindSpring has been working to transition some 400,000 Netcom customers away from an email system it calls "fragile" but has not yet brought most of those subscribers into its own system.

The current outage began around 7:00 last night, when a critical piece of hardware in the email system failed, according to the company's network status Web page. Mailboxes belonging to users whose names began with one of 13 letters--close to half the Netcom system--became inaccessible as a result of the failure.

Subscribers were able to log on to the service and surf the Web, but even unaffected mailboxes were likely to have intermittent service, the company warned.

A late-afternoon attempt to rebuild the mail server failed today, according to the company's Web site. As of late this afternoon, the company did not have a revised estimate for when email service would be restored.

The equipment at fault was purchased after the May 10 Netcom email outage, according to MindSping spokesman Ed Hansen. The company is working with the hardware seller to make sure the problem is not repeated but did not disclose the seller's name.

Netcom's email system was originally built with very little redundancy, Hansen added. MindSpring's system, by contrast, has enough servers running simultaneously to work around a similar hardware failure, he said.

Hansen said that no mail will be lost or bounced, but that delivering backlogged mail will take some time even after service is fixed. Some users did report having mail bounced from their accounts without being delivered, however.