Fairfax misses NZ editions as systems back-up fails

Fairfax New Zealand chief executive Allen Williams says the company has commissioned an independent review into the IT failure which led to the loss of today’s morning editions including its flagship Christchurch and Wellington dailies.

“Both our primary and our secondary systems failed,” he told GXpress.

Experts from vendor Atex are flying to Auckland to assist Fairfax IT staff, but Williams says data has now been restored and Wednesday’s editions should be published as normal.

‘The Press’ (Christchurch), the ‘Dominion Post’ (Wellington), ‘Southland Times’ and ‘Timaru Herald’ were not published this morning, although a modified edition of the ‘Taranaki Daily News’ did appear. Afternoon papers, the ‘Manawatu Standard’, ‘Marlborough Express’, ‘Nelson Mail’ and ‘Waikato Times’ published abridged or modified versions.

Fairfax New Zealand’s Atex Genera system uses data centres in Auckland and Wellington, and Williams says after consulting the vendor, editorial and advertising databases were being moved following “performance issues”.

But while this is “something we have done before”, problems were soon apparent: A Microsoft recovery process was started, but when it was realised this would take too long, IT staff worked to access the Genera back-up.

“This failed on several attempts, and we had to accept that printed editions would be affected,” he says. “Both our primary and secondary systems failed.”

Williams says he is not looking to attribute blame, and is more concerned with “how we move forward”.

News stories were published on the papers’ websites and on Fairfax’s www.stuff.co.nz site. In a report there, editors apologised for the failure.

‘Manawatu Standard’ editor Michael Cummings said it had taken a huge effort to get the paper out using a different system: “It's incredibly disappointing we haven't been able to give our readers the product they deserve," he said. The report quoted Williams saying, “We are extremely disappointed.

“We pride ourselves on getting our papers out and have to say to our readers and advertisers we are very sorry."

Fairfax central region general manager Gerard Watt said the company was "absolutely disappointed" not to be able to produce ‘The Dominion Post’.

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