WHEN a global airline such as British Airways can be grounded by the impact of failures affecting its ICT systems, then you should take stock of your own modestly-sized computer systems. Rather cryptically, BA Chief Executive, Alex Cruz, explained that the root of the problem was a ‘power surge’ which struck last Saturday, affecting their data centre, flight systems, baggage systems, communications systems, and even the backup-systems. The back-up needed a back-up!
If that does not frighten you, then it should. Your own computer system can be affected by non-computing-related problems. Furthermore, you should not be content to sign off on some work because you have completed the set-up of a single stage and ignored the wider operating environment.
If, like BA, a power-related fault can cripple your computer system, then you have ignored some relevant aspect of fault prevention, risk reduction, and root cause analysis. In data centres and server rooms, where cooling is necessary for safe operation of the high-powered equipment, the problems with the air conditioning will eventually lead to computer system failure, too!
The thinking and planning needed to defend your critical systems should be continually refreshed; otherwise, you may be faced with very expensive and hastily acquired patch-up solutions. British Airways would have learned this hard lesson only after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the disruption, which includes:
* Reimbursing tens of thousands of affected passengers for the disruption;
* Public relations costs to fix its battered image and reputation; and
* Loss of profits, and damage to stock market value.
It’s not just BA, either. In the past several months, other airlines have also been affected by IT-related outages. With the constant worry of worms, viruses, ransomware and other types of malware that can infect computer systems, we must also be concerned about the risk of wider environmental factors causing forced downtime.
If a leaky pipe can cause a flood, and eventually damage your computer system, then your work is not done. If a dusty workplace can cause a build-up inside the case of your computer, your work is not done, either. If your computer has cables and connections exposed to the public or customer-facing area, then your work is definitely not done.
Hopefully, you have now gotten the point. System availability depends on so much more than just the hardware and the software. If you don’t conduct regular risk assessments, or testing of your disaster recovery and business continuity plans, then count yourself lucky. Better yet, start planning for failure.
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About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and security strengthening.