The well-publicized power outage suffered by Delta Airlines in early August was deemed so serious that a number of U.S. senators are now looking into the case as a matter of urgency.
But despite the news headlines, what actually happened to cause Delta so much trouble, and what lessons can be learned for other businesses hoping to prevent this kind of event happening to their companies in the future?
The first thing to recognize in Delta’s case is that the company’s systems underwent a catastrophic failure event. When this happens, the system completely breaks down, with a total loss of functionality and service within that network.
Naturally, you would think that this is the worst-case scenario for any critical failure — and it is. In theory, a software system, IT network or any other operational setup should be somewhat resilient to local failures in the system, with either a partial loss of functionality or a graceful degradation in capability taking place once a problem occurs.
Delta’s failure, however — due to a fire at one of its Technology Command Centers — wiped out its entire operation. Backup measures either weren’t in place or failed. Let’s take a closer look at why this was the case.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR)
The power outage at Delta’s Technology Command Center in Atlanta grounded planes in Japan, prevented passengers from passing through check-in points at airports in London, Paris and Hong Kong, and completely arrested the online activity of its websites across the world.
Yet if the company had proper BCDR protocols in place, all that could have been avoided.
Mission-critical tasks in Delta’s day-to-day running of the company simply couldn’t be executed once its systems had gone down. Some employees tried to issue boarding passes by hand, but this just wasn’t feasible. This was a failure of their business continuity contingencies.
Ultimately, however, Delta’s disaster recovery measures were not up to scratch. This impacted every other aspect of their business and led to the “large scale” cancellations that beset the airliner in the coming days.
Disaster recovery methods don’t have to be expensive or overly sophisticated. In fact, many simple precautions can be made to ensure your business is fireproof to the sort of emergency that Delta Airlines faced.
At the forefront of disaster recovery is the ability to retain and restore critical business data that becomes compromised once an unexpected emergency event occurs. Some common approaches include:
- Offsite and 3rd party backup data: Data migration from central command centers to off-site or virtual locations ensures that, regardless of the damage done to the primary site, data recovery is always a future possibility.
- Automated continuous data recovery protocols: Having in place an automated system for the continuous logging of critical data minimizes the amount of any data lost when an unexpected emergency event does occur.
- Systems recovery — local & remote: Once a loss of data has happened due to a loss of system functionality, it is imperative that the system is recovered and restored. Using a virtualization product, the last image of your backup can be brought up in a virtual environment, and any corrective measures can then be taken to get that system online and functioning again.
- UPS — uninterruptible power supply: In the event of a power loss to a data retaining site, a reliable UPS device can ensure servers remain online, with potential data loss averted.
To really understand the damage wrought to Delta’s business, it has been estimated that a total operating loss to the company of $120 million will be incurred due to the continuing effects of this power and data outage.
Don’t make the same mistakes that Delta did; begin looking to secure your own BCDR plan today.