The PlayStation Network’s Partly Back: Are We Happy Yet?

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As you can see from that shot up top, the PlayStation Network, Qriocity, and Sony Online Entertainment are back, 50 fussy red and blue states are now united in scintillating neon green, and all’s right with the world.

Well, almost. The network’s back for some of you, but not all, and Sony’s restoration of service, which began on Saturday, hasn’t been hiccup-free. The servers were back for just 10 minutes before grinding to a noiseless cyber-halt as millions of anxious PSN users sent digital “hellos” to Sony’s servers only to be rebuffed in droves.

Sony’s servers answered for the first time in weeks…then forced everyone to change their passwords. The password change wasn’t optional: Sony’s re-launch included firmware version 3.61, a mandatory security update that requires every user come up with a new password before accessing the network (think of it like a virtual stampede through an understaffed checkpoint). Who needs hackers to crash server clusters when you’ve got three-and-a-half weeks of pent up demand channeled by user throngs in the multimillions?

(More on Playstation Network Goes Back Online at Long Last)

It goes without saying the U.S. is only fractionally “the world,” meaning the network’s coming back in “phases” elsewhere, which—given Sony’s proportionately larger European base, for instance—makes sense. I’m also seeing sporadic reports (read: message board chatter) of people in all locations having to try repeatedly to get the firmware download to work (or to log on, once it’s installed). Sony acknowledged a bit of turbulence Sunday evening, tweeting “We’re expereiencing [sic] a heavy load of password resets and will be turning off the services for 30 minutes to clear the queue.”

That’s how client-server services work—they’ll sustain average usage numbers on a given, normal day, but collapse like wolf-blown stick-houses when the entire base tries to phone home simultaneously.

We’re also not fully back yet in terms of PSN services. Online gaming, check. Various media streaming services (Hulu, Vudu, MLB), check. Great news for consumers. But if you’re after something behind Sony’s pay wall, the PlayStation Store remains offline, which equals “nightmare continueth” for anyone selling their wares therein (publishers, developers, indie folk, etc.).

Saturday’s restoration brings the total downtime to three weeks plus three days (from April 19th to May 14th). Was 26 days too long?

Wrong question. Let’s just hope it was long enough. Once Sony’s finished bringing the network fully online, the question ought to be whether they’ve really safeguarded our user data and ensured the network can do more than writhe on the floor in the face of future hack attacks. Forget recent revelations that the hackers who brought the PSN to its knees used Amazon to anonymously stage the incursion, the question’s whether Sony (or let’s be frank here, anyone) has what it’s going to take to weather future even more sophisticated visitations of cyber-thuggery. Whether they come from Amazon, somewhere-else-istan, or the Moon hardly matters.