The global IT system failure that hit British Airways and caused all its flights to be cancelled at London Heathrow and Gatwick is a lesson in the importance of disaster recovery planning.
Whether or not the root cause was a power supply issue is now academic. Failure to rectify the problem promptly points to inadequate disaster recovery or a failure to practise those procedures regularly.
A good disaster recovery and business continuity plan enables a company to back up its systems and data at a remote location so that it can switch over to this back up as soon as a failure of the main systems occurs.
Having a duplicate of your IT systems to fall back on is just one component of your company’s wider DR planning. DR plans should cover all aspects of operational activity including a “battle box” of essential information which is kept securely at a separate location.
Practising DR is vital
Unfortunately, planning and checking of all these business continuity procedures can be overlooked by companies who only focus on selling products but this is because the worst case scenario has never happened to them yet.
Gary Jowett from CNC in Brighton says: “Hopefully, the BA experience will ring alarm bells at such companies and prompt them to take DR planning more seriously.
“Disaster recovery procedures should be practised every month to ensure everyone’s up to speed. Employees and managers may join or leave your company every year so practising these procedures promotes continuity in what needs to be done.”
There’s also a need for regular audits of your IT estate because new kit and software may be added that isn’t fully accounted for in the original business continuity plan. Audits should include a focus on security because a computer glitch may be caused by a cyber-attack. It’s a good idea, therefore, to keep a master list of all hardware and software, including all PCs, laptops, smart devices and printers. Your auditors must also keep an eye on who’s using the email server and gaining access to your IT administration system.
In fact, a much deeper problem than a power surge may have caused the chaos for BA and its stranded passengers. According to one press report the airline has had a series of problems with a new IT system. Talk of a hard-to-find bug that causes crashes on rare occasions may also point to over complexity in its infrastructure that can hinder the effectiveness of disaster recovery measures.
Gary Jowett says: “If such chaos can affect a major international airline it should be a warning to smaller enterprises that being fully prepared for a disaster is essential. Failure to do so can create a lasting negative impression with customers and business partners that you may never recover from.”