The price of 24/7 uptime?

Many sectors of the economy, especially those supported by technology (ecommerce or other) are under pressure to increase service delivery. The proliferation of access and mobility means clients want to access their products/accounts/services when they want at any time of day or night.

100% (expected) uptime has an impact on operational tasks – in the past it was ok to take systems down during planned maintenance time frames to reboot, resolve issues, install patches, etc. How does an organisation continue to perform essential maintenance when clients could be accessing the systems at any time? Technology solutions are available, and more accessible in the redundant and virtual world. However the pressure still remains, which could have an impact on the governance of operational tasks such as change management. In order to keep a system up, one may feel the need to reduce the level or depth of testing prior to implementing a change. This should be a key area of focus for those monitoring or auditing the system development and change management processes.

What are the symptoms of such a scenario? We could analyse issues and incidents that affect a system and see if the root cause is related to changes. For example a high number of emergency changes right after a scheduled change may indicate the planned changes were not adequately designed or tested. Requiring staff to work longer hours to resolve issues is one thing. But when the client experience is affected, this is more serious. We will wait to see if further details arise, but it could be that issues experienced this weekend by the National Australia Bank could be related to this pressure:

http://www.news24.com/World/News/No-cash-after-computer-crash-20101127

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