IT and its reliability…

Ever since the IT industry was founded in the mid-20th century, people have learnt to tap into the seemingly limitless boundaries of computing to do tasks at a speed and efficiency that no one at that time could imagine. This led people to become reliant on it, needing it for their work, life and play. With the introduction of the Internet, people started to live their life on the Internet with games and social networking sites. Also, recent developments allowed people to have an always-on internet connection so that workers could always have access to their email no matter where they are. However, as we are going to discuss later, IT is not always reliable.

There are a few examples to show that IT is not always reliable, and it affects many people who use IT. A few of the notable “fails” of IT reliability are shown below.

1) All the viruses that exist on the Internet
Internet viruses have been around for a very long time. Every year, malware writers become “smarter” in developing malware, using new social engineering tricks to get users to install their malware. All these do no good to end users, who have to constantly remind themselves of the dangers of using a computer.

Social-engineered malware are becoming more commonplace.

Social-engineered malware are becoming more commonplace.

2) OCBC and DBS ATM and eBanking downtime
Both DBS and OCBC faced a few hours of downtime this year. Consumers could not access their eBanking account or use the ATMs around the island. Furthermore, the NETS network was also affected by this outage. All this caused great inconvenience to both end users and businesses. OCBC said that the outage was triggered by a hardware fault.

Both DBS and OCBC's ATMs went down earlier this year.

Both DBS and OCBC's ATMs went down earlier this year.

3) The fall of the PlayStation Network
In May 2011, the hacker group Anonymous hacked into Sony’s PlayStation network and managed to obtain a copy of their user database. The database included customers credit card details and their CVV, a special code number which was supposed to prevent misuse of a person’s credit card. After Sony found out about this breach, they took the whole network down to try to secure it. This whole process took 24 days. This caused a massive outrage in the gamer community where consumers have trusted Sony with their credit card details.

Sony's PSN went down for 24 days in May-June 2011

Sony's PSN went down for 24 days in May-June 2011

4) The BlackBerry outage
In September 2011, a hardware failure also caused a massive outage of the BlackBerry network in certain parts of Europe and North America. This caused a great inconvenience on their customers; especially since a large portion of BlackBerry’s users are enterprise users. This outage might cause them a huge loss in profits especially since users are not able to access their email which goes through the BlackBerry Network. This also let to many people realizing that even though a system might seem to have 100% uptime, there are times that the system might go down.

BB's network went down, resulting in great inconvenience.

BB's network went down, resulting in great inconvenience.

5) The NUS SOC Network Outage
Also a victim of the unreliability of technology, the NUS SOC Network suffered some downtime in October. Although the impact of this was limited to students in SOC, NUS, it also caused some inconvenience to students who relied on certain systems within the NUS network to get their work done.

So how reliable is technology really?

Many systems give a 99% uptime guarantee, but is 99% really enough? This would mean that out of every 100 days, 1 day is “reserved” for downtime, amounting to a total of about 3.5 days of downtime a year. It might seem like a small number, but that 3 days might make or break someone’s business.

There are many measures companies have tried to use to counter this problem. However, they are still not able to make sure everything would be 100% reliable as there are always threats to uptime. As seen in the above examples, threats can come from anywhere be it external (hacking attempts), internal (hardware failures) or other unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.

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Therefore, IT managers have to implement backup systems in preparation for these cases. Also while a system is down, the best way to get around it is by the traditional way of doing things. For example, if your email goes down, you might need to send snail mail instead. This is one of the best, albeit not the most efficient way to do things.

However, we cannot just get rid of technology altogether! Although it can be unreliable at times, it improves efficiency in an order which is not possible without technology. It has also (arguably) improved our lives with all the new content that is available to us. If a company were to drop their email system just because it went down for a few days, they would ultimately lose more business than when they were with it.

In conclusion, technology is important in our daily lives and it affects the way we live, work and play. We simply cannot get rid of it totally. However, we must always remind ourselves that technology is not fool proof and we might need to know of a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

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