Friday, November 27, 2009

The most expensive I.T. problem in history?

When there's an I.T. breakdown in any working environment nowadays, people react as if there is darkness over the whole land and the veil of the temple has been rent in twain. They get indignant, they cluck, they tsk and say, 'how can I be expected to work under these conditions?" They don't relax and say, it's not so long since the communications technology we use every day seemed hilariously improbable, when a message travelled as fast as you could type or fax or walk across the office and pass it on. They don't, er, chill.

In circumstances like these I feel sorry for the poor souls who have to sort the problem and embarrassed for those who are standing around as if they were Alexander Fleming thwarted in his discovery of penicillin by the fact that they can't send an email.

We've all seen this happen. Just imagine what it was like for the poor souls who were responsible for the Stock Exchange trading system yesterday. This went down for three hours in the middle of a bad attack of worldwide jitters brought on by Dubai's announcement that it might not be able to meet the repayment schedule on its massive debts and on the day when America's financial markets were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. They were tearing their hair out all over the world while some bloke in cargo pants presumably fiddled about under a desk making sure a plug hadn't come out of a socket. Given the fact that centres like Frankfurt are waiting for any opportunity to press their competing claims to be the world's financial centre this particular outage could potentially cost trillions. Whatever those are.


  1. Have they tried switching it off and on again?

  2. @Graham: not forgetting to wait 30 seconds, of course! Is there any technical basis for this seemingly arbitrary interval? Surely, if the power is cut, it's cut, there's no 'in-between', is there?

  3. NomadUK9:21 am

    Well, yes, there is. There may be leftover charge, keeping some portions of memory intact, or other components active. That's why a simple reboot doesn't always work: the power is only interrupted for an instant, not necessarily long enough for memory to clear and everything to be reset.

    The time interval is fairly arbitrary; it just needs to be long enough to ensure everything is dead. Thirty seconds is more than long enough, and most people will manage to wait at least half that time, which should be sufficient.

    And, of course, if there's a backup battery, then all bets are off.