Saturday, August 30, 2003

Unavailable

Tried to logon to my online bank account today to check the balance, having had the debit card turned down in a store today. The message from the bank read: "I'm sorry. We are having some temporary delays. Please try again later" With the obligatory "ok" button. No, not ok. It would be nearly ok if you told me when it would be back up or maybe a little more about the issue, or perhaps even that the reason the online service is down is the same reason that my card was turned down. But this message from a major international bank is not ok at all. Nearly three years ago we took the online self assessment service down from some routine maintenance one Friday evening. We put a note up a week in advance, flagged the outage on the entry screen and took the service down when we said we would. We even brought it up when we said we would. It made the BBC 6 o'clock news (yes, mainstream television news). Plainly that was absurd. It seems that everywhere there are double standards around what is acceptable and what is not. Kablenet was castrophically down the other day - by using the word "catastrophic" I mean DOWN, i.e. no message, no redirect, no nothing. COLT telecom took the blame. Stuff goes down in this space. Putting things online is still new for lots of companies. Design flaws are hidden until something happens that you didn't expect (think electricity outages in London last week). Even the smartest people get hit by outages. The trick is to have a good plan for recovery, communicate with your customers whilst you're down and then get the service back as fast as you can. And remember, judge others as you would wish to be judged yourself. Next time you're down, I'll remember and I'll mention it when the time is right ;) Because, your service will go down just like ours will.

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