IT System Failure: 3 British Airways Outage Lessons - iCorps

Long weekends are usually great for relaxing. This past Memorial Day Weekend, however, was anything but for British Airways. At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, a power surge at a data center created a ripple effect, causing system failure on all of British Airway’s systems. This IT error cost parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) nearly $650 million dollars (500 million pounds).

While airlines usually see great profit over long weekends, BA was forced to cancel 75,000 flights to global locations due to this crippling system failure. Over 300,000 passengers were affected, with thousands stuck in limbo at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. With no official way to communicate with passengers, the airline staff resorted to white boards to deliver notices.

British Airway’s chief executive, Alex Cruz, has been accused of deep budget cuts, including downsizing staff and outsourcing to obscure third parties. According to The Stack, Cruz has apologized for the system failure and has denied claims from the GMB union that the meltdown occurred as a result of staff cuts and foreign IT outsourcing. The group suggested that BA had cut ‘hundreds of dedicated and loyal’ IT staff to outsource its IT requirements to India in an effort to save money.

In addition, BA’s backup and disaster recovery systems also failed, unable to spin the data centers back up to support airline functionality. At this time, there is no evidence pointing to a cyber-attack. Here are three lessons to be learned from this IT meltdown:

No excuse for missing the basics

The backlash from this incident makes it clear that customers and investors have limited mercy when it comes to technology blunders. But British Airways is far from the only big name in the news this month for IT-related disasters, and if these giants can fall short on the IT basics (disaster recovery planning and reliable support), then we can't help but wonder how many small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) are leaving their systems, and subsequently, their business, to fate. There's really no excuse anymore for missing these basics, not for any size of business. Advances in technology and enterprise-level business solutions are now readily available  to the SMB market. There are affordable disaster recovery programs that can ensure a business is back up and running within hours, even minutes, and proactive IT support programs that help mitigate disasters altogether. 

Who are you outsourcing to?

Several sources have commented that British Airways' decision to outsource its technology to a company in India could have exacerbated the problem. No definitive answers have been revealed and may not ever be, but as an IT outsourcing company of 23 years, we can confidently say that WHO you outsource to makes all the difference between sinking or swimming amid a disaster. A proactive and reliable IT partner monitors systems around the clock, alerts you of problems before they're problems, ensures redundancy and that backup systems are tested and fail-safe, and just has your back. (Related: See why CoHo Partners can depend on iCorps). Before you commit to an outsourcing partner, find out if their consultants can accomplish these basics and how committed they are to their role in helping you succeed as a business.

Test your DR plan, and then test it again, and again...

No-duh comment here: a DR plan is useless unless it can actually recover your business from a disaster. Did you know that there are services out there that can ensure your backups are being tested daily and provide proof via screenshot? Some companies may be comfortable with quarterly backups but technological innovations have set a new solution standard when it comes to data backup. Intelligent Business Continuity goes beyond data protection to deliver automated assurance, continuous protection, secured storage and instant recovery.

Don’t let your business suffer from system failure. Having reliable support and a fully tested disaster recovery plan in your back pocket is vital to the success of your organization. For more information on how iCorps can help, contact us.

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With more than two decades of experience, the iCorps team is dedicated to delivering excellence to our customers by staying ahead of market trends and understanding new technologies that could impact their business. iCorps delivers superior IT solutions implemented by the best IT consultants in the Northeast.