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Pulling the Plug at BA

An IT contractor for British Airways accidentally pulled the wrong plug as travelers queued up for a holiday weekend. That pulled the plug on travel plans for some 75,000 passengers and cost the airline a reported $128 million. It makes you wonder: Who else is vulnerable to an “oops”? Probably everybody, but we can all reduce our risk exposure with good backup systems.

The contractor’s mistake occurred at BA’s data center, and it caused the airline to cancel flights at London’s two airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. Besides the millions BA will pay for their customers’ inconvenience, there will be an investigation that will draw on company resources. It affected operations throughout the BA empire.

The incident raises two questions?

  1. Why wasn’t that cord clearly marked in some way, shape or form to give anyone a clue that it absolutely had to stay plugged in?
  2. Why wasn’t some sort of backup system available?

To me, the second question gets to some very fundamental issues about how major companies operate in today’s world. One of them is cost-cutting. News reports indicate that BA’s management was under pressure to cut costs and boost profit margins in a highly competitive industry. Well, we’re all in highly competitive situations, and we all want to raise our profit margins because we can’t raise prices – at least not without significant pushback.

But at some point, the large corporations that provide so many services for small businesses and consumers, like us, need to step up their game. They should be taking the steps our clients and customers would demand of us to make sure we serve them as expected. If one of the package delivery services, such as UPS or FedEx – or even the Post Office – has an IT failure that causes one of our deliveries to miss a deadline, the consequences for us will be much greater proportionately than for the big corporation.

Mechanical problems at a specific location can happen, but a data center problem should never happen because there are so many ways to add backups. Here are a few examples of what they can do:

  • Have a battery-powered back-up system in place so that everything in the system can be saved.
  • Have a back-up location that can be immediately and automatically activated so that critical operations continue.
  • Make time to make sure everyone is trained and retrained for all tasks they need to do on the system.
  • Keep your hardware and software up-to-date to make sure you have all performance and security measures installed. One of the things we’ve seen in many IT-related catastrophes, such as WannaCry ransomware, is that large businesses simply don’t bother to invest in technology in order to cut costs. They wind up paying more when something happens.

Let’s take this one step farther. You can be exposed to many of the same risks and can benefit from the same preventive measures in your office and at home. You can buy battery back-up systems and plug in your servers, routers and computers to give you time to save your data. You can use remote storage – the cloud – to save data and apps. You can make sure everyone knows what to do and not do with your system. You can automatically update your systems – especially your operating system and app software – to keep them secure.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have any questions about keeping your home and office systems running in the face of any incidents – manmade or natural. We can also audit your system and give you a plan to stay plugged in.