What the British Airways and Australian Tax Office Outages Can Teach Us About IT Downtime

By Len Rosenthal, CMO 

It’s no secret that IT downtime costs organizations of all types and sizes a considerable amount of money, time and resources, but it really hits home when you dig into the numbers: last year, research firm IHS Markit estimated that crashed IT systems cost North American businesses anywhere from $1 million (for a typical mid-sized company) to $60 million (for a typical large enterprise) every year. All told, the combined bill is about $700 billion per year.


Based on these staggering numbers, IT operations managers across the world must have collectively cringed as they read about the outages that British Airways and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) recently suffered. In the case of British Airways, the widespread systems outage took the airline giant completely out of action during the weekend of May 27 (except for good old-fashioned phone communication), stranding as many as 300,000 passengers during a long holiday weekend in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom. British Airways is still investigating the outage, including the root cause, so the bill for it is still in the mail…


The ATO’s situation has been more of a slow burn, but no less catastrophic: the tax office’s storage systems first went down in December 2016, causing several days of disruption to online services, and the systems failed again in February. And for better or for worse, the ATO has assessed the monetary cost of the outage, as it has reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount with its storage technology provider.


Regardless of the particulars surrounding each outage, the bottom line is that underlying IT infrastructure was at best significantly affected by the crashes, and at worst was the cause – which leads to the logical conclusion that app-centric infrastructure performance monitoring (IPM) technology would have greatly benefited each organization leading up to, during and following the crises (and may very well have helped avert each crisis altogether). In fact, the ATO had a rudimentary silo-specific IPM solution in place, but some of the monitoring features weren’t activated – which caused a domino effect that led to the failure of most of the ATO’s systems. You don’t need to be an IT expert to know that IPM solutions – as with anything in life – are only useful if they’re actually being used. And you can bet that IPM technology like VirtualWisdom would at the very least shed some light on the cause of British Airways’ outage – if not outright prevented it from happening in the first place.


There’s an old saying in the world of football that the best skill a player can have is simply being available to play – and the same goes for IT systems. And this is why IPM technology is so critical – it’s the best way for an IT manager to know if their organization’s infrastructure is equipped to meet customer requests, or if that infrastructure is about to do the two things no company wants: turn away paying customers and suffer often irreparable brand damage.


If you’re interested in hearing more about how your organization can avoid the problems that British Airways and the ATO endured, drop us a line or let’s connect on Twitter.