For the second time in three months, a border force outage across Australia’s international airports caused massive chaos and disruption to passengers with lengthy delays in immigration queues.
There may be no other industry that is so heavily regulated or impacted by outages than the airline industry - and for good reason. Real lives, safety, security, money, time and emotions are on the line and dependent on near-perfect operations and uptime.
Despite the high pressure to ensure uninterrupted and safe experiences, the airline business has been incredibly vulnerable to IT outages. These outages have severe business implications, ranging from frustrated customers, to damaged brand reputation, to not being able to execute revenue generating operations. Today’s digital economy has seen organisations across the country struggling to respond to the skyrocketing demand for ‘24/7 – always on’ IT services.
In the last year, practically all of Australia’s airlines have been impacted by outages, from Virgin Australia and Jetstar experiencing issues with its check-in systems at airports across the country as a result of an IT outage to Qantas travellers in Sydney facing hour-long delays after a power outage brought the airline’s departure terminal to a standstill. In today’s environment, no airline or airport is immune to the possibility of going off-line.
IT can be exceptionally complex in the airline industry; and IT outages or disruptions can happen for many reasons. Third-party dependencies, severe weather impacting data centres, company mergers and acquisitions that suddenly marry two different IT environments, combining old hardware with new software, outdated legacy systems, technology upgrades, patches or transformations, connectivity issues, simple human error, cyberattacks or power outages can all be to blame.
Outages can last for hours and affect everything from operations, dispatching systems, flight paperwork, booking, flight check-ins and boarding, or the ability to communicate with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. And while some outages are out of airlines’ control, much more can be done to ensure they are less vulnerable from an IT perspective. Airlines do not have to accept outages as a cost of doing business.
Shifting to More Modern, Resilient Strategies
In an ‘always-on’ world, IT leaders are constantly challenged to maximise resources and mitigate the risks of downtime and data loss. The following are a few ways airlines can ensure they’re doing everything they can to minimise the risks of outages.
Modernise DR plans with resilience
Innovative airline IT organisations are modernising their DR plans to go beyond traditional backup technologies to add resilience and continuous data protection. IT resilience technology combines continuous availability, workload mobility, and multi-cloud agility to withstand any disruption, seamlessly adopt new technology, and drive transformation forward.
It’s important to have geodiversity among your data centres incase one is impacted by severe weather, which could knock out legacy systems and primary data. Having one or two more data centres in a different part of the country offers more diversity of systems to protect and replicate data so that it’s constantly available and not impacted by an outage. Critical applications and data can be moved or migrated out of harm’s way within minutes to another data centre or cloud, if needed, with IT resilience technology.
Investing in top disaster recovery talent can quickly improve the strength and capabilities of an IT organisation. Experience in disaster situations is valuable and helps ensure IT teams stay cool under pressure. Oftentimes the business case can be made to invest in more people when C-level executives understand the bottom line impact of downtime or outages.
Practice makes perfect
DR plans should include potential ‘what if’ scenarios and must be laid out clearly with owners and step by step instructions. Plans must be signed off across all department heads, including your board of directors. This involves extended coordination and continuous communication, and in times of trouble will prove to make things as seamless as possible.
Test your systems often to ensure systems are working as needed. Incremental improvements can be made among all involved when testing is done regularly.
No matter how big or small an outage, it’s important that organisations do what they can today and prepare for the future. The difference between being down for hours or days versus minutes or seconds is the difference between a solid disaster recovery plan and one that is outdated, barely tested or even non-existent.
Ultimately, the end goal is to maintain regular business operations so that customers will not experience any interruption or frustrations. The simplicity provided by cloud-based advancements are making disaster recovery systems much more resilient and capable of withstanding frequent, modern IT disruptions and threats.