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Speculation that ransomware was the reason for problems with Antech Diagnostics' online portal was incorrect: The company said the reason for the outage, which spanned two business days, was faulty server hardware.
A global outage that shuttered Antech Diagnostics' online system this week, inconveniencing veterinary practices, was traced to a malfunctioning server component, according to the company.
Antech Online, a portal used by veterinarians to easily access and download laboratory reports into their practice management software and submit requisition forms, failed Wednesday morning. "IBM has overnighted the errant part, which is currently en route to our data center," David Eaton, vice president of commercial marketing for Antech, said in a statement today to the VIN News Service. "Our team is standing by to receive the part and complete the repair."
Shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern, the company said the portal was back up.
The outage did not affect Antech's reference laboratory services, the company said: "All tests are being run and turnaround times are within normal ranges."
Even so, the service interruption inconvenienced veterinary practices that rely on Antech, one of the country's largest veterinary diagnostics chains. Antech is owned by Mars Inc., an international giant in veterinary and pet-related business.
Dr. Hillary Israeli, a practitioner near Philadelphia, said she contacted Antech about the issue on Wednesday, after trying to sign into the portal: "I sat at my desk and logged in, and repeatedly got 'user name and password incorrect,' so I called."
The technician who answered, she said, acknowledged that there was an issue and suggested that she "check back in an hour." Israeli said she heard nothing from Antech until finding a mass-email in her inbox this morning.
The message from Antech notified users of a temporary workaround: Instead of using the online portal, the company would email laboratory results in RTP files, which require a dedicated reader to open. Antech acknowledged that the process of reading the reports can be cumbersome.
"If customers are having trouble opening the RTP, we are working with them directly to ensure they receive them successfully," the email said. "Here's how customers can open the reports: Click on the file and open it using PDF or Microsoft Word or Notepad."
Prior to the fix, Israeli anticipated the issue might produce a backlog of unhappy callers to the company: "They couldn't possibly have enough phone answering capacity to handle the number of frustrated veterinarians on Earth right now."
Indeed, repeated calls today by VIN News to the company's customer service number were met with busy signals or white noise or rang continually without being answered.
On a message board of the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession and parent of VIN News, members shared their experiences.
"Thirty-six hours in for us in terms of online outage," wrote Dr. Brendan Moulder in Baltimore. "Results are coming back normally, but having to manually fill out paperwork to send out/submit. Glad we have some staff that remember how to deal with paper!"
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