Much like how the undersea Asian earthquake of last December exposed the vulnerability of man's reliance on technology, Singapore government agencies were hit by a similar incident - on a smaller scale - when a power failure shut down several websites on Monday.
The Straits Times (ST) reported that the shut down might have had a far bigger impact than initially believed.
With e-government services crippled by the outage, SingPass was apparently unavailable as well. The password system is used by over 1.1 million people here to access personal information such as their CPF details.
Businesses, too, were hit, as many were unable to use the BizFile service to e-file documents. Licence renewal and online registrations for new companies were also stalled.
According to some civil servants, emails were unretrievable even after the system came back on.
Says Van, 26, who works at one of the Stat Boards: "I lost all the information I had in my emails! It was a great inconvenience."'
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority website - where BizFile sits - carried a notice yesterday which read: "Internet mail sent (to us) on 16 July, 2007, may be potentially unrecoverable or delayed."
It advised those who do not receive a reply by Friday to resend the enquiries.
Restaurant manager Chris Ho, 34, told the ST that while he could access the national service portal (www.ns.sg), he could not log on to check his in-camp training dates because the SingPass system was not working.
Company manager Michael Tan, 38, could not view his Central Provident Fund statement although he could visit its website.
Thankfully, the shutdown was not a blanket affair. The Customs' e-declaration system TradeNet and the court's e-filing system LawNet were unaffected.
According to ST, the power outage on Monday was from 11.40am to 1pm.
The disruption happened at service provider 1-Net's premises, shutting down websites and e-mail systems.
As the data centre operator, 1-Net is responsible for ensuring that the servers are up and running at all times.
The Straits Times quoted technology experts as saying that such a failure is unacceptable.
Data centres are required to have back-up systems, including uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and secondary generators.
By international standards, data centres should have at least a 24-hour power back-up.
1-Net chief executive officer Mock Pak Lum declined to comment on the power failure, citing client confidentiality, but added: "Most data centres have backup power systems. You can't not have that and call yourself a data centre."
For more details, read The Straits Times today.