Technology

What is the cost of computer system downtime for CityLink or you?

Engel Schmidl /

Under-resourced IT systems are not a new problem for many businesses yet many of us fail to see the point of the investment. Clearly the cost of your downtime depends on who you are and who it impacts.

Have you really contemplated the cost of a glitch and the impact it has on you, your customers and their businesses or on the lives of other people?

A business such as Google or Amazon takes computer up time very seriously, as they are all about service availability. Someone like Transurban CityLink – who operate toll roads in Melbourne – may not have really considered the impact on their brand or on their clients of a system failure.

On the CityLink website yesterday was this announcement:

“CityLink has been affected by system issues preventing its ability to respond to incidents in the tunnel. While the roadway remains safe in its current state, should an incident occur CityLink would be compromised in its response. CityLink’s absolute focus on customer safety requires the tunnels to be closed until the issue is resolved.”

Later in the day they stated:

“The core communication switch has failed. In the usual course of events, the backup system would take over, however the backup system has also failed. It has taken us a period of time to isolate the cause and as a result, the fastest resolution.

“At this point we do not know the reason for the initial failure or back up failure but will provide further updates once our investigation is complete.”

As a result both the Burnley and Domain tunnels were closed for many hours causing massive traffic issues for the city of Melbourne.

They kindly offered refunds for people stuck in their traffic jams, so they will suffer some financial losses for the systems outage. They will also suffer some administrative costs for fielding phone calls and for processing refunds of day passes. Of course there will also be costs associated with problem rectification. Clearly this direct cost of the systems outage will directly impact CityLink, poor them….

However, they will not feel the impact of the hours thousands of people spent sitting in their cars wondering why traffic was not moving. They will not feel their impact on hundreds of businesses of employees turning up for work an hour late. Or the impact on that keynote speaker who arrived after their designated speaking slot and will be forced to refund their days income of hundreds of dollars. Or the impact on other time-based workers who missed opportunities for being stuck in traffic.

If you suffered as a result please leave a comment on estimated costs below so we can see more examples.

The message here is that investment in systems is the business’ responsibility and that while they have a licence to take the money of commuters there is limited legislation on how they should provide systems and support to ensure systems outages do not severely affect their clientele.

While there is a lack of legislation about company obligations to maintain sound IT systems the responsibility falls to company owners, managers and directors to ensure their responsibility has been appropriately taken care of with sound fail over or redundant systems and sound backup and recovery strategies in place.

In this case I also wonder if better monitoring and testing of the systems might have shown that the backup system failed before the primary system failed. Often our “backup systems” sit in an idle state with no monitoring or testing of the fail over process such that at the point where we need them they are not available.

I can’t say what has happened in this case but I can suggest you test and monitor the systems you are depending on to ensure this does not happen to your business. Boasting that the system has run smoothly for 13 years will not reduce the cost and impact the day it does happen.

If you are now wondering whether your IT systems are robust enough it may be time to consider an audit to establish your level of systems survival in the event of a component or location failure.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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