If a tree falls in Mumbai can it hit you in Utah?

In today’s global economy, it probably should be of little surprise when an event half a world away instantly derails something right here at home.

But taken aback we were on Saturday after we noticed the Standard-Examiner epaper edition was not online by its customary deadline of 6 a.m.

The Standard contracts with an international company to optimize our printed paper for online viewing as the epaper edition, available at http://www.standard.net/digital. The epaper work is done overnight, after the printed pages run on the presses here in Ogden. The optimization can be done anywhere in the world, as long as the producers have the pdf images of our pages. Our newsroom sends those pages via ftp early each morning; then several hours later our readers see the optimized pages in the epaper.

This usually goes without hiccup, but Saturday morning we alerted our epaper provider that the edition was missing. We were told the company was suffering “production issues” and the edition would not be produced. Later, the company said it had suffered a “catastrophic system failure” and even our Sunday epaper production might be imperiled.

At that point our online department got to work on a backup presentation of the epaper. We posted the raw pdf files on our website here in Ogden and provided the emergency link for readers. Later Saturday, the regular epaper showed up online — good news, but contrary to what the company had told us earlier in the day.

Clearly, our provider was having a tough day, and we wondered what might gave gone wrong. Usually something described as a catastrophic system failure in computer parlance usually means major hardware, software and-or data problems have happened.

Also, we wondered if Hamas, the Middle Eastern terrorist group, might be involved. That’s because Olive Software, our U.S.-based provider, has some of its operations in Israel, which has been under rocket attack by Hamas from Gaza in recent days.

We finally found out Sunday. No computer meltdown. No Hamas rocket barrage. Olive also has a major production presence in Mumbai, India. It turns out that early on Saturday, Mountain time, a major longtime political figure in Mumbai, Bal Thackeray, died. The city immediately shut down in mourning, and Olive’s Indian workforce went home — leaving many of the company’s more than 200 epaper customers without updated editions.

Olive assembled backup production operations in three other locations to recover from what it now described as a “catastrophic staffing event” and was able to complete the Standard’s Sunday edition. Monday’s also was up on time.

Thackeray was cremated in Mumbai on Sunday, but work outages may not be over in Mumbai. Supporters of Thackeray were urging workers to take Monday off in another period of mourning.

Globalization demands attention be paid to local cultural conditions. As we found out, a shoe dropping in Mumbai can trip us up in Utah, if certain connections are in place.

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2 Responses to If a tree falls in Mumbai can it hit you in Utah?

  1. Bob Becker says:

    Or, you could not out-source overseas, and have the work done here where the customs, traditions etc. are familiar and can be anticipated. Just a suggestion…..

  2. Mark Shenefelt says:

    We did this particular work here for several years. Optimizing the pages for the ePaper is a painstaking process. It required a part-time employee to work several graveyard hours on a tough deadline with minimal safety net. The current arrangement has been, on the whole, much better in terms of timely delivery, impeccable optimization and cost.

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