DAMAGE LIMITATION: British Airways – Another industry victim of poor IT Strategy


british airways customers failed

british airways customer fedup waiting for i.t services to continue

A £500 million pound incident that re-enforces why moving to the cloud is an IT Strategy that needs to be considered ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Issue:

So it’s been just over a week since the NHS healthcare system was victim of the Ransomware attack and now we have British Airways who have fallen victim to having a somewhat poor IT Strategy.

Airline’s check-in and operational systems crashed on Saturday that saw thousands of passengers trying to travel on Bank Holiday weekend left stranded.

Chief executive Alex Cruz blamed the IT failure on an “exceptional” power surge, which he said had been so strong it also disabled the company’s back-up system. There is also claim that inexperienced staff in India didn’t know how to launch the backup system.

Unions claimed the company’s move to cut IT jobs in the UK and outsource some of them to India’s Tata Consultancy Services had left the company more vulnerable to this type of incident.

Impact

The IT system that was hit is responsible for British Airways’ flight, baggage and customer communication systems across 170 airports in 70 different countries.

George Salmon, a Hargreaves Lansdown analyst, said: “The whole sorry episode has undeniably put a dent in BA’s reputation for delivering a premium service, and the worry for shareholders is that this unquantifiable impact could have longer-term consequences.”

Davy analyst Stephen Furlong said the cost to the carrier of cancelling one day of operations was about £30m.

IAG (parent company to BA) has not yet said how much it expects the power surge to cost it financially but City analysts have predicted the costs of paying customer compensation and repatriating bags to travellers could amount to a bill of €100m (£86.6m).

“Half a billion pounds has been wiped off the market value of the British Airways owner, IAG, after computer system outages grounded hundreds of flights over the weekend.” – theguardian.com

Scope

The reports are that BA has resolved full flight schedules today (30/05/2017) although thousands of bags are still sat at the airport while passengers are already at their destinations.

Well we don’t know and probably won’t find out about what really resolved the issue but what we can say is whatever is currently in practice can’t be working if potentially it will cost the company £86.6m to resolve situations and already £500 million wiped off the shares! Pretty big f*…oversight.

Quite often IT Directors come into an organisation and stamp their mark by simply outsourcing IT to cheaper resources which in short will save the company a few thousand pounds etc. but if your company’s focus is on ‘quality’ whether it be product or service then making such cuts or changes is surely going against the ethos of the business albeit to save on the short. Maybe this was a risk British Airways was willing to take. The only issue was they got caught out early doors before they could eventually bring everything back inhouse.

Similar to the ransomware attack if the company had invested in a fully cloud IT Strategy then in my opinion the damage limitation would be limited if not eliminated. I have an article that explains the proposed plans for mitigating the ransomware attacks in a previous article found here.

Would a cloud strategy help?

British Airways could benefit from using Microsoft Azure features such as Traffic Manager to redirect user traffic to alternative data centers to continue services whilst the primary is ‘broken’. Customers had serious issues accessing BA’s mobile apps to gather flight information. By using Azure Mobile Apps which is a global service together with Traffic Manager users would effectively be non-the wiser that there were backend issues at the British Airways primary datacenter. As mentioned above their was an apparent ‘huge’ power surge which would have affected server racks within the British Airways datacentre. Well by configuring your Servers with High Availability and spreading them across Availability Sets then so long as it’s a single rack that was affected by the powersurge the British Airways Servers would be affected minimally because services would have failed over to the working nodes on separate racks (which has a separate power supply unit). However, given that British Airways hosts critical services that need to be available 24/7 then the likelihood is that if these services were hosted in Microsoft Azure they would be made Geo-Redundant where data is replicated 3 times to neighbouring Azure datacenters that exist roughly 300 miles away, again minimal damage obtained to business-critical services. There are far more measures that can be taken such as Azure Site Recovery etc. but the point is Azure provides that assurance on a enterprise scale particularly with critical services whereby incidents like this are far less likely to take place if the IT strategy is designed correctly where you can take advantage of the cloud strategies available today.

There’s a place for the Microsoft Cloud whether you are a global organisation or SME the question is how best can it suit you.

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