Cox Communications' residential email outage Friday, Saturday and Sunday — which affected an untold number of Oklahomans and customers in 13 other states across the Midwest and along the East Coast — left numerous Sooner subscribers more than frustrated, if not a little poorer.
Tulsa Realtor Lori Cain said she has “no clue” about business opportunities she may have lost from new clients who could have emailed her about listing their homes.
Cain, who mostly communicates with clients via email, said she called or texted existing customers to make sure they knew she couldn't receive emails.
Meanwhile, Kim Searls, who markets for an Oklahoma City law firm, wasn't affected at work, but learned after 7:30 a.m. Monday — when delayed emails starting rolling in to her private account — that she'd missed the 72-hour sale at Sprouts Farmers Market, whose grocery business undoubtedly was affected.
Cox spokeswoman Kristin Peck said the company “deeply regrets” the outage, which also affected customers in Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Rhode Island and Virginia. Only its residential email customers in California, Nevada and Arizona were unaffected, she said.
Cox has more than 6 million customers and, according to Wikipedia.com, 3.5 million are Internet subscribers, though Peck couldn't confirm that number.
Peck said Cox isolated the weekend failure to its primary and backup email system platforms, which are meant for residential customers. It is replacing the equipment and implementing measures to prevent a reoccurrence of these issues, she said.
Currently, all incoming messages are queued in its system, and Cox expects to deliver them on a rolling basis as it brings the systems back online, she said. Because of the volume of stored messages, it may be Wednesday before residential customers receive all of their queued emails, she said.
“These will arrive gradually and may not be delivered in chronological order,” she said.
Cox on Monday gave some customers a $5 courtesy credit for their troubles, The Oklahoman learned. But Peck said late Monday the company is “looking at doing right by its customers.” A blanket credit, she said, might not make sense, as many customers don't use their Cox email accounts.
Meanwhile, information technology, or IT, experts on Monday blogged about avoiding future problems and speculated on the cause of Cox's problems.
Virginia Paige, a tweeter on Twitter.com @VirginiaMinute, recommended users get a hosted email solution such as Gmail, which is independent of their Internet service providers, or ISP, so if they change their ISP, they don't have to change their email address.
“That's not to say that those services don't ever go down … but even if the Internet is out … I can still get to my email, and I can send emails from there using one of my many email addresses,” Paige blogged. “If Gmail goes down, I still have an old Yahoo address that I can use.”
Daniel Holm of InterWorks IT firm speculated Cox's problem involved an untested continuity plan. “Either their unit data was unreadable or they rebuilt their alternate hardware,” Holm said.
Brad Thomas, vice president of technology for Perimeter Technology Center, said Cox's issues could range from software problems on their platform to domain name system problems to infrastructure problems with service, storage or network devices.
Jay Wade, chief executive of Red Earth Systems, said it behooves Cox not to share too much information.
“It would be a security risk to show what went wrong in their design system, sort of like showing the secret sauce and how to break the system,” Wade said.
“It's hard to guarantee you'll be up 100 percent of the time,” Wade said. “We try to keep the computers running, and we're successful most of the time. But unfortunately, like Cox and everybody else in the game, it's not always easy.”