No one will have missed O2’s data outage last week; even if you were lucky enough not to be affected, you’ll most likely have caught the day’s dramas on the news. Last Thursday’s events were a wakeup call for everyone in the telecommunications industry.
Whist it is rare to see an outage as widespread and long-lasting as last week’s, O2’s data outage has demonstrated that these events can happen and, when they do, the consequences can be huge.
What happened last Thursday?
It appears that last week’s data outage was a result of either an expired software licence or an expired certificate. It is not currently clear as to why this resulted in a data outage that spread globally, but it is clear that O2 and Ericsson must ascertain exactly what happened and find a way to ensure that the events of last week do not repeat themselves.
Should end-user organisations be taking action?
Whilst O2 continues its investigation, end-user organisations may also need to consider whether or not they should be taking action. The outage has highlighted two pertinent points for consideration: the importance of managing the expiry dates of all software licences and certificates and understanding the impact of expiry; and the dependency upon mobile networks which most organisations now exhibit.
The expiry of licences and certificates
All of an organisation’s systems will now be software dependent. Generally speaking, licences and security certificates are time dependent and this time will, eventually, lapse. The consequences of an expired licence or certificate can escalate from warnings through to reduced functionality or security protection and, in extreme cases, widespread service outages like those witnessed last week.
An end-user organisation must assess its dependency on its various licences and certificates, and the impact of expiry, and subsequently consider ways to manage and mitigate this impact. This can involve passing the risk onto suppliers, with robust contract conditions and penalties for exceptions.
In parallel with contractual protection, most organisations should ensure that they have the best possible understanding of the licence and certificate dependencies of their solutions. This would include:
- What licences/certificates does the entire solution require?
- Which of these licences/certificates are time dependent?
- How can these be managed/monitored?
- What happens if/when a licence/certificate expires?
The modern dependency upon mobile networks
As a society, we are now heavily dependent upon mobile communications, as a result of an evolutionary shift. It is fair to say that many organisations do not fully understand just how dependent their routine operations are on mobile data. Because of this, very few organisations will have an effective plan in place for contingency and business continuity. In this age of dependency, a mobile outage can result in, at best, loss of productivity, but can, at worst, lead to life threatening situations.
What were the results last week?
In addition to the given inconvenience of O2 customers unable to access the internet via mobile data, we saw timetables unavailable at London’s bus stops, logistics companies unable to allocate jobs to field staff and an array of missing or delayed analytic data.
The outage, reportedly, pertained solely to data, but one must consider how much worse the effects could have been were voice to be affected as well, especially in an age where many organisations have made the move from landlines to mobile SIMs for mission critical services.
4C Strategies – communication technology consultants
Moving forward, organisations should endeavour to review and better understand their dependencies, both on licences and certificates and on mobile data as a whole, and deploy additional resilience where necessary, updating business continuity and disaster recovery plans accordingly.
As an independent consultancy with extensive experience assisting client organisations with the challenges associated with modern communication technology, 4C Strategies is uniquely positioned to help. For a free no-obligation discussion with regards to the above, or any other ICT requirements that you may have, contact 4C Strategies today on 01858 438938, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.