Ray White’s email goes down in the floods …
but just the Exchange portion


UPDATE: This story has been updated with a further interview with Ray White on 13 January. Ray White has clarified that it was actually an inability for its Active Directory installation to communicate with the rest of the world which has taken down its email systems this week during the Queensland floods — courtesy of an AAPT outage at its facility in the Riverside building in Brisbane.

Real estate giant Ray White has this week received a graphic demonstration of the benefits of switching to cloud-hosted email, with the Microsoft Exchange portion of its staff email systems appearing to have been taken out by Queensland’s floods; and the Google Apps portion it’s migrating to remaining up.

In late November Google unveiled the company as one of two flagship Australian customers who had taken the decision to switch off their Outlook/Exchange platforms and migrate to Google Apps.

At the time, Ray White director of IT & property management Ben White said the company switched because it wanted an IT infrastructure which was more in sync with its nature — being composed of many smaller real estate agencies, all run by entrepreneurs who wanted more flexible systems than Exchange could offer them.

However, this week the company might have found another benefit from the move — business continuity. “Ray White email is down due to flood. May be restored today, but further disruptions are likely with water peak [tomorrow]. Pls pass on, wrote the company’s head of marketing Ian Campbell today on Twitter.

Campbell was unable to be contacted by telephone, and a spokesperson for Ray White wasn’t available. However, Delimiter believes that in fact it wasn’t Ray White’s entire email platform which went down — just the portion still hosted on Microsoft Exchange, which, along with most of the company’s back-end infrastructure, is associated with its Brisbane head office, and is currently unavailable.

The company is understood to still be migrating some staff onto the Google Apps platform — which would not have been affected by the Queensland floods, as it is not hosted in Australia and is available globally to anyone with an internet connection.

The news comes as other datacentre facilities have also been experiencing problems in Queensland. Credit Union Australia has been forced to shut down its internet banking services due to the flood, as it operates out of head offices in the flooded Brisbane central business district. “CUA’s Brisbane Headquarters is located in the flood zone in the Brisbane CBD and this has caused the shut down of our internet and web banking services,” it said in a statement on its site this afternoon.

AAPT too, warned customers this afternoon that a number of its Brisbane-based co-location hosting facilities were in danger of being affected by the flood. The telco has commenced exiting equipment from those sites — and has powered down one facility completely after Energex cut power in the area.

Image credit: Tom Jankowski, Creative Commons


  1. Renai,

    Stop foolishly plugging Gmail and Google Apps at every opportunity while trying to compare them to MS Exchange.

    You are trying to compare an ‘on-site’ MS Exchange solution with a Hosted Mail solution.

    Go and learn about what exchange actually is and the difference between an ‘onsite system’ and an ‘offsite’ or hosted solution. Gmail will never be able to compete at an enterprise level with redundant hosted exchange solution.

    We are pulling so many business mailboxes off Gmail and migrating them to hosted exchange it’s not funny. Sure Gmail is cheap at $30/yr per user, but you do get what you pay for. Enterprise customers don’t look at cheap as the most productive option.

    Perhaps you should place a disclaimer on any article you publish that mentions Gmail and/or Gogle Apps acknowledging the fact that you are a Gmail user and plug Gmail every time you attend one of their slush marketing sessions in Sydney.

    • hey Julian,

      I’m not plugging Gmail and Google Apps — as I’ve posted many times, I acknowledge that there are situations where it’s better to use a version of Exchange — hosted, or on-site. Or even a combination of the two, as newer versions of Exchange allow.

      But it *is* news that Ray White’s half-Google Apps, half-Exchange environment functioned this way during the floods.

      Secondly, if you’re migrating Google Apps accounts to hosted Exchange, let’s see you put your money where your mouth is and prove it. I’ll be extremely happy to write a story: “Company X dumps Google Apps for Exchange”. If you hold up your end of the bargain, I’ll hold up mine.

      As for their “slush marketing sessions” … I think Google’s PR team would agree that I am actually one of their harshest critics. I’ve been pushing them for years now on not having an Australian server.

      • Well said. Besides, the article’s not even really about Exchange vs. Google Apps. It’s about on-site vs. cloud deployment. Presumably, a cloud deployment is much more secure against localized disasters like this, because it’s quite expensive for a small(-ish) company to run redundant data centres in different geographies, whereas for a cloud provider, that’s pretty much expected.

      • I think what you meant your title to read was… “Ray White’s email goes down in the floods …but just the on site portion”.

        The consistent comparison of the two products without much reference or analysis of the architectures that you’re REALLY talking about would indicate that @Julian has a point, you may have some product bias.

        I would also suggest if one were to read through your site here, some biases could be inferred too.

        Just an observation.

        Best of luck.

  2. Dear Renai
    Large parts of the Ray White email has been unavailable since Wednesday morning due to the failure of our AAPT internet connection. We still use AD for authentication into Google Apps (for legacy system reasons) and that is hosted in our data centre. With the AAPT connection down, we can’t authenticate.
    Unfortunately, swapping out AD still has some time to go as part of our broader IT transition to a cloud based solution.
    For those parts of the network that have already had their authentication migrated, their email continues uninterrupted.
    We are working on a couple of options to solve the issue. Lots of lessons will no doubt come out of this, and I wish we were a few months ahead on our migration plans.
    Ben White

  3. “Credit Union Australia has been forced to shut down its internet banking services due to the flood.”

    Indeed they don’t have a ITDR solution. Wonder if they will get one? Not acting like a big player.

    I had to apologise to mower man, as I cant pay him. And I can’t check for transactions.

    I hope they have offsite data or it will get really ugly.

  4. This is a primary example and proof of how companies fail to implement correct, tried and proven DRP and BCP. DRP is as important as running a Production environment. With cloud based solutions so available and cost affective I dont understand how some CIO’s remain in their current positions… you would be red faced wouldnt you?

  5. @Renai Most Interstate Fibre links yesterday went down meaning you couldn’t access site like interstate or international services. So google app would be inaccessibility unless there a state/local based CDN

  6. Renai,

    Perhaps this issue has highlight the fact that you need to establish the facts before jumping in claiming the virtues of Gmail above any thing else.

    Ben White’s comments on this particular article and your followup article establishing the fact that AD was indeed the culprit voids your claims that Gmail is somehow far superior in terms of redundancy.

    In your original articles you made some pretty strong claims based on your own assumptions which is just bad journalism:

    “…. in fact it wasn’t Ray White’s entire email platform which went down — just the portion still hosted on Microsoft Exchange, which, along with most of the company’s back-end infrastructure, is associated with its Brisbane head office, and is currently unavailable ……..

    …….. The company is understood to still be migrating some staff onto the Google Apps platform — which would not have been affected by the Queensland floods, as it is not hosted in Australia and is available globally to anyone with an internet connection.”

    Ray White is running a mix of Exchange and Gmail and is authenticating its user via Active Directory. It wouldn’t have mattered what they were using. Additionally, Ray White was using AD to authenticate it’s users on a number of systems. The only way they would have overcome the outage would have been to have AD in a multisite HA configuration.

    Perhaps in future you would be better off to establish the facts before publishing a story rather than jumping to journalistic conclusions and just writing some fiction based of what you think happened.

    I for one and tired of hearing the thoughts and opinions of journalists who in favor of getting a story published just go and essentially ‘invent’ some facts. This is becoming a trend and in you case with these stores being syndicated over a number of media outlets even more important.

    Normally I do actually enjoy reading your articles, yet in recent times as soon as the word ‘Gmail’ pops up you run out trying to plug it’s virtues at almost any cost.

    Do right by your readers and stop writing useless pieces fiction based on your assumptions. The old ‘a spokesperson for company xyz wasn’t available for comment’ is no longer an excuse for failure to establish the facts and certainly no excuse for writing an article based on what ‘you’ think occured.

    • hey Julian,

      I’ll leave this somewhat unfair comment by you up as a matter of courtesy, and to indicate the level of transparency which Delimiter maintains as a publication.

      However, I must note that I am comfortable that my story yesterday was based on the facts I had to hand — including inside information from the company, which, as it turns out, didn’t represent the whole situation. I quickly posted an update as soon as I became aware of the lack of context.

      I do not “invent” facts when constructing stories.

      As for a perceived bias towards Google Apps, it is true that I prefer Gmail as a collobration platform personally. However, I think your claim that I am plugging the platform at any cost is wrong. I would be extremely happy to write a stack of “Company X dumps Gmail for Exchange” stories if they existed, which you have assured me they do.

      I have yet to see any evidence of that claim, however. All the evidence so far is that Australian organisations are increasingly investigating cloud computing-based email solutions. A number, such as AMP and Coca-Cola Amatil are shifting to hosted Exchange, or a combination of hosted and on-premises Exchange, and a number are also shifting to Google Apps (Mortgage Choice, Ray White, Flight Centre being good examples).

      I personally write a lot about companies which shift to Google Apps because those sorts of technology platform changes are controversial, and readers like to read about and debate them.

      It was a similar case a few years back when many companies were considering desktop Linux implementations. Very few actually took place, but we wrote a lot about them because readers wanted to know just how viable the platform is.

      One last thing.

      If you truly think I am in bed with Google, I’d be happy to provide you with the details of their PR team, with which I have had a number of “robust” conversations over the years. I’m sure they will be able to verify that I haven’t simply switched my brain off with respect to their technologies.

  7. Hi everyone,

    I have deleted a comment from @juliancarter on this thread, because I read through it a number of times, and could not find anything in it that wasn’t a personal attack on me.

    I’m happy to debate Google Apps vs Exchange all day. But what I won’t do, is suffer personal attacks against me on my own site — or personal attacks against anyone else.

    Let’s stick to the issues, please.



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