Journal Register Papers Dodge Bullet in Server Outage

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

A severed Verizon fiber optics cable nearly knocked out production at several Journal Register Co. dailies last weekend, E&P has learned.

The outage shut down the server site at Journal Register’s Yardley, Pa., headquarters, which runs the alfa Media Solutions Inc.’s OpenMedia editorial applications the chain is rolling out on an aggressive installation schedule for 17 of its dailies. Journal Register is the first U.S. install for Germany-based alfa Media.

Journal Register is installing a second server at its New Haven (Conn.) Register to build in geographic redundancy, but that install is not yet completed.

“It’s a shared services-environment, so without the data connection the newspaper sites themselves were helpless, non-functional,” Al Mailman, Journal Register’s senior vice president of technology, said in an interview Tuesday.

“But we published every paper,” Mailman added.

The problem was a severed cable that affected Bucks County, Pa., and parts of New Jersey south of Trenton. The cable was out from 10 a.m. Friday until 6:05 a.m. Saturday, Mailman said.

E&P was alerted to the outage late Friday by an employee of The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, Mich., who was clearly unhappy with the new alfa Media system. Another employee, who also insisted on anonymity, said later Friday night that the paper was moving pages using its old ACT editorial system.

The Morning Sun was the second Journal Register newspaper to install the OpenMedia applications, which are housed on a Sun Fire V890 server site in Yardley that connects to newsrooms around the country through Citrix.

Installing at a rate of two papers a month, Journal Register intends to have all its dailies operational on the system by February, Mailman said.

The alfa Media system has already proved its worth, Mailman said.

“It supports scalability, which is what we need,” he said. “They’ve proven that in any number of locations. We may be the first in North America, but they’ve done it in some 20-odd newspapers. It’s not new.”

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