It may be a nondescript building in a nondescript trading estate. It may not even carry your organisation’s name; but the data centre is the beating heart of your business.
If the heart fails the limbs don’t move, the brain is starved of oxygen and the end result is catastrophic. The heart is not a visible organ and does not resemble the popular image of Valentines Day cards, but we all understand its importance and hopefully look after this vital organ. Likewise it is now time for the business community to understand that the data centre is the heart of the business and despite its lack of visibility, failure to look after this piece of critical infrastructure can seriously damage the health of an organisation.
Today’s digitally oriented business is dependent on the data centre. A failure in the data centre becomes international news and an unnecessary cost. In 2018 three high profile technology outages were all traced back to the data centre. All three cases were an example of the organisations failing to understand that the data centre is critical infrastructure to their business. In March Amazon Web Services (AWS) took more servers offline than intended, in May British Airways cancelled 400 flights following the “uncontrolled return of power” to its data centre it said after a disconnection of power caused a power surge and in June bank card services business Visa suffered a data centre hardware failure that lasted over seven hours and led to customers being unable to carry out transactions.
In all three cases the very service that customers pay these organisations for was unable to be performed. A cloud computing service without compute is not what AWS customers pay for, BA fly customers to destinations and Visa boasts of being able to handle 65,000 transaction messages a second. None of these outcomes took place.
Just as the security of financial records and the safety of aeroplanes is part of the critical infrastructure of the above organisation, so too in 2019 is the continual reliability of the data centre.
What makes these outages stand out is that a single point of failure led to such a damaging breakdown. And I am afraid to say, I see this in far too many cases. Organisations may have resilient or fully redundant IT infrastructure, however if the failure is in the supply, for example the UPS or an electrical issue, then that resilience may not be enough to prevent an outage. Too often organisations are too scared of truly testing the data centre and its ability to come back online.
So if 2019 is not to have major airlines, banks and technology providers splashed across social media and front pages, the entire organisation needs to understand that the data centre is critical infrastructure. Once understood as critical infrastructure, the data centre will not reside in the shadows as a large cost centre, or an outsourced agreement that once signed is only referred to when the deal is up for renegotiation. As critical infrastructure the data centre has to be front of mind for everyone in the organisation. Studies have shown that organisations that have data security baked into the minds of their teams and a part of daily procedure suffer far fewer cybersecurity attacks. Following the review of the BA outage it was reported the team member responsible for the mistake was unaware of the scale of the problem they could cause. But that awareness needs to be at the boardroom down to the front line staff.
And these risks are not just for the global corporates, in today’s digital economy, any business of any size can suffer from the same outages and the damage to the bottom line is as impactful.
Business is always a difficult balancing act between the need for efficiency and reliability. But keeping an eye on the bottom line and only recognising the data centre as a cost will lead to damage to the profits when critical infrastructure fails.