Who Caused the Data Center Outage that Grounded 479 British Airway Flights?
Back on May 26, 2017, a huge power surge occurred at British Airways data center near London’s Heathrow Airport. It resulted in a center-wide outage that grounded 479 airplanes and stranded over 75,000 passengers who were hoping to fly to cities around the world. Over the next two days, 193 more flights were canceled as the airline scrambled to return its operations to normal. Overall, this 3-day disruption caused a 1.8% drop in British Airways passenger traffic.
In early June, experts reported that BA faces over $100 million Euros ($112 million USD) in damages from May’s power surge. Now, British Airways isn’t some minor airline. With their immense fleet of airplanes, BA ranks as the biggest carrier in the United Kingdom, and they offer flights to 183 worldwide destinations. They also belong to International Airlines Group (IAG), which is the world’s third largest airline group.
Needless to say, the world was shocked to see this airline giant brought to its knees! How did such a massive outage occur at BA’s data center? Well, you see, an engineer pulled the wrong plug. Yes, that’s all it took! Don’t believe us? We’ll tell you the details below.
The One Engineer Who Brought Down an Airline Empire
On that fateful day in May, an English engineer disconnected the wrong outlet at British Airways data center, Boadicea House (BoHo). When he realized his error and replugged it, the sudden uncontrolled surge of power caused extreme and unfathomable damage. British Airlines’ operational IT system was completely knocked out, which caused the stalling of their flights that Friday morning.
These events raise a very key question: why didn’t the data center’s backup systems kick in? Human error shouldn’t be enough to ground a major international airline. Indeed, a BA spokeswoman was quick to tell reporters that the data center does have a state-of-art backup system. In this case, inexplicably, it failed to take over during the power outage. The airline says they’re still investigating the situation. Perhaps we’ll have more answers in the upcoming months.
Human Error’s Role in Data Centers
The British Airways saga isn’t the first time in history that human error has compromised an entire data center. The Ponemon Institute ran a study in 2016 of power outages at data centers. Surprisingly, their team found that human error is the top cause of outages, accounting for a staggering 22% of incidences. Other culprits were heat, water, and air conditioning failure at 11%, weather-related reasons at 10%, and equipment failure at 6%. Researchers have speculated that the percentage of human error incidents could be lowered with improved training. But the reality of the situation is that data centers need to be properly protected so that one small error doesn’t cause the entire system to collapse, as it did with British Airways.
If you want to safeguard your company’s data from a similar fate, Silverback Data Center Solutions is ready to help. Working nationwide, we offer top-quality data services to our valued clients and their companies. Contact us today at 1-888-245-2344, and one of our trained experts will discuss your options with you.
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