Telstra exchange fire spread by cooling systems

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Telstra exchange fire spread by cooling systems
Melted cable trays in the Warrnambool exchange (courtesy: Telstra)
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Routing data stores

The carrier also plans to create better offsite stores of network configuration data, such as exchange routing tables, to allow faster reloading and "the return to a previous known working network configuration".

Riley told iTnews that the files in use at the exchange had been recoverable, so backups were not required to be called on, but the state of the backups wasn't ideal.

"When you went and had a look at the backups they could have been better, quite frankly," he said.

Offsite storage of accurate backups could have enabled Telstra incident teams to get started remotely "a little earlier", Riley acknowledged.

"That in turn would have helped us speed the recovery," he said.

"Overall today [the backups are] satisfactory but I think there's a lot we can do to move them up a notch and make them much more immediately serviceable."

Where to from here?

Permanent repairs to the Warrnambool exchange were approved last month and are expected to be finished by the end of June this year.

Telstra's technical findings are also expected to feed into a separate federal inquiry that deals more with the social and community impacts of the exchange fire.

iTnews has previously reported early submissions from this inquiry, including estimates that the fire cost Victoria's south-west economy $408,000 a day, and that individual losses were above $10,000 in some cases.

Telstra expects to begin addressing community communication impacts from April, according to Riley.

"I think what we'll be kicking off after April is a review of the communication and our processes," he said, referring to the release of today's technical investigation as "part one" of a broader probe.

However, he believed Telstra had consistently communicated its 3+3+3 disaster recovery methodology, which outlines roughly when communities can expect to see services repaired or permanently restored.

That methodology has full permanent restoration after three months, a target Telstra won't hit in this instance as it put tools down between December 2012 and February 2013.

"That's primarily because we wanted to shut down over that Christmas holiday period and not make any changes," Riley said.

He does see room for improvement in the way Telstra communicated some aspects of the recovery efforts, and remains apologetic for all affected customers.

"I think we could have been a little more forthright with that communication out into the community," he said, noting any findings would also be handed over to the federal inquiry.

The federal inquiry is due to release its findings some time this year.

Riley said he wanted to acknowledge the substantial efforts of the Country Fire Authority, which has so far prepared two reports of its own on the incident, and also the "men and women of Telstra" that had fed the recovery effort.

"This is a one in 50-year event," Riley said.

"The last exchange fire we had was in 1961 in Canberra, and I just want to commend [Telstra staff] on the speed of recovery because I think it would have to go down as a world record for the rebuild of an exchange anywhere."

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