03 October 2007

Just a spike

For the past 6 weeks or so I have been working in an organisation with about 400 managers and staff. Although I have been there every day and I have met a number of people, I can’t normally claim to know what everyone there is thinking about at any one time.

Last Thursday and Friday there was no doubt in my mind what they were thinking about. They were thinking about business continuity. The local power supply became intermittent and a couple of power spikes disabled a number of their central servers. E-mail, printing, internet access and their main database system were all down for most of the 2 days. The interesting point of the story is that, in an attempt to ensure that their IT infrastructure was well managed, they had contracted out its strategy and management to Very Well Known in the IT Industry Ltd who is easily big and experienced enough to carry out effective risk assessments.

There a couple of reasons why an effective contingency plan might not be in place for this kind of risk:

  • the probability of occurrence was thought to be vanishingly small
  • the impact was expected be minutes rather than hours (this organisation has its own power generation for extended power cuts)

Whatever the reasons, I’m pretty sure that they have been visited at some length over the last few days and that there will be a serious attempt to make the network much more resilient to this kind of incident in the future. It also reminds everyone that even when you have contracted out the activity to a 3rd party, the quality of the service will depend on your being an informed client.

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