Keeping it safe – Learn to avoid the pitfalls

Fortunately, many of the organisations devastated by this tragedy had a well-rehearsed disaster recovery plan and their systems were up-and-running again in a few days.

The technology for locating back-up servers at remote locations and mirroring the information held on the live systems has proved to work.

However, if there is one thing the last decade has taught us, it is that it’s much easier to get it wrong with IT than to get it right. How many of us can sleep easy in the knowledge that our own systems are secure and will continue to function? While we may have a disaster recovery plan in place is this enough?

The year 2002 has got us off to a challenging start. On 1 January, the 1901 census website was launched. A great idea, which proves the huge value of information. Millions of records have become available electronically with a few mouse clicks. Previously, this information occupied 122 metres of shelf space.

However, something was overlooked in all the work done on this project – the demand for the site. In the first two days there were more than one million users an hour. As a result, the site has been suspended.

Assurances were then given that the system would be up-and-running in a few days. This has failed to materialise and it looks like it could be weeks before the system is working again. This is highly frustrating to users. The Public Records office of course is losing revenue every day the site is down.

This should not have been a technology issue, as there are sites with a much larger volume of traffic that work very reliably. People have got this wrong.

Continuing along the 2002 diary, the national press reported last week the collapse of the £260m flagship training programme after finding a ‘breach’ in a computer system run by Capita, the publicly quoted service company. There is a debate as to whether this is a systems issue or a security breach.

Regardless of the cause the net result is a disaster, large amounts of confidential data had got out of the Capita run system and the authorities are now investigating the extent of the false claims that have been made for government grants.

So what are the lessons to learn from this? IT can provide a secure and reliable infrastructure but it must be managed properly. This is often not the case. Accountants are the natural choice to lead this debate.

Let’s make sure this is core to our thinking in the coming year.

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