If technology is the infrastructure of the day – we are in trouble

Image courtesy of Joe Bloggs

It would be safe to say that today’s infrastructure is technology. Yesterday’s was roads and railways.

If we accept this, then said technology should a) work except in exceptional circumstances and b) when it doesn’t the company that supplies the technology infrastructure should be able to fix it fast.

And yet bank networks still crash. Quite often. In the UK, the Barclays network collapsed last year, HSBC has gone offline, Lloyds has come unstuck (while a friend of BillingViews was buying a car) and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the largest, disappears on a fairly regular basis.

The last time was two nights ago and no RBS, NatWest or Ulster Bank customer was able to pay for anything with their cards. For some it meant being ejected from taxis and made to walk home, for some it was merely embarrassing.

BillingViews operatives were at a reception and the reception host took some people to dinner. The embarrassment at having a credit card refused, then trying again and getting the message ‘your expiry date is wrong’ is not hard to imagine in a work context.

With a reliance on technology as our infrastructure this kind of crash is not acceptable.

And before you relax and think ‘See, those banking systems…shot to pieces’ we are not much better. Vodafone’s Scottish network collapsed earlier this year, resulting in, well, the Scottish population not being able to get texts or email or surf the internet while busy trying to make a living. There are, of course, other examples.

At least with roads and railways, you can be fairly sure that they will work. With infrastructure companies in the modern age – you are not so sure. And when the infrastructure collapses in the modern world, it puts the lifeblood of economies in jeopardy.

With smartphones, mobile internet, mobile money and mobile payments on the brink of becoming the norm it is something to think about. Along with the back up plans and systems.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

1 Comment

  1. Roads & Railways aren’t’t immune to failures in themselves, anyone thats been sat on a closed motorway for hours will agree to that.

    However the difference is that in most cases the network itself is resilient, if a motorway is shut people will find an alternative route via A-Roads, it might take a bit longer but the end goal is reached.

    With our Technology infrastructure we have become too obsessed with trying to engineer out any failure that we build architectures that should mean it never happens while fine on paper this is impossible in the real world, better to accept that components will fail and ensure that users have an alternative method, this does’t have to mean N+1 redundancy just not tying all your nodes together. If 4G fails then they should still be able to use the 2G network, if chip & pin is down then fall back to mag stripe.

    Finally users should also take responsibility for a bit of redundancy, in our family we have 2 cars, if my wifes car breaks down she can take mine to work, I have a credit card from someone other than my main bank, I even carry 2 phones from different providers! (the only issue there is the number people have for me is tied to one network, but I can still pickup my emails on the other)

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