Houses Of Parliament Network Hit By Series Of IT Outages

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A move to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud suite is disrupted when an expansion of Parliamentary IT networks was botched by a third party

The parliamentary offices of many MPs and ministers have been hit by a series of IT outages over the last few months, leaving MPs struggling with a move to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite,  it has been revealed.

An email from Joan Miller, the head of IT for the Houses of Parliament, sent to MPs and leaked to investigative website Exaro, apologised for the outages, but stressed that Microsoft’s cloud service was not at fault, blaming instead the work of an outside contractor which was brought in to upgrade the IT system.

MPs had complained that they had suffered slow internet access, delayed delivery of emails, and computers continually freezing, with one MP saying that he was being ‘driven mad’ by failures in the system.

government parliament big ben public sector clouds bird © Samot ShutterstockNot a cloud problem…

“I am very aware that many people on the Parliamentary Estate have experienced problems with their IT and internet access over the past few weeks,” Miller’s email read.

“I know that this has been very frustrating and inconvenient for those affected. I therefore wanted to write to you to apologise for the ongoing problems and for any difficulties caused, and to tell you about what we have been doing to fix the problem,” she said.

Last month, it was revealed that calls to the parliamentary IT helpdesk were of little help, as an investigation by Labour MP Ian Austin showed that calls took more than three times as long be answered than last year.

Detecting the source of the problem required a “significant amount of detective work”, Miller said, but the issue had now been resolved. She was keen to emphasise, however, that it was not the current roll-out of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite which caused the outages, although access to Microsoft’s cloud software has been affected due to its need to be connected to the internet.

Rather, the culprit appeared to be a ‘much bigger demand’ on the Houses of Parliament network, as MPs and other workers look to access more data from a growing number of devices. This necessitated an upgrade of the internet infrastructure, yet in January, one of the suppliers involved in this upgrade introduced an error into the supporting software, which appears to have led to the recent IT failures.

“This had the opposite effect of that intended, that is, it reduced the capacity of the access to the internet,” Miller wrote.

Miller said that the situation would be monitored ‘closely’ in the following weeks, and that any further migrations of Microsoft 365 would be postponed until the network issue was completely resolved.

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