Wednesday 11 September 2019 4:44 am

Service unavailable: Don’t let an outage break trust in your business

Michael Cade is senior global technologist at Veeam.

Across the tech industry, there is a crisis of trust that is centred around how companies handle data – from network provider Cloudfare’s outage in July that saw a vast number of websites around the globe go down, to the big four tech firms facing antitrust hearings in the US. 

Recent research by Veeam highlights that almost half of consumers value their data more than the physical items they own. And companies feel the same way – the likes of Google and Facebook base their very business models on the use of customer data. 

But for customers, this concern over data also influences their buying decisions. More than one third (39 per cent) admit that they would stop using a product or service if an organisation experiences an outage. Consumers view their data as personal property, and they need to know that it is in safe hands.

As such, alongside using data responsibly, companies must reduce the potential damage from outages by ensuring that stored data and services are always available. 

For many services, customers rely on an always-on offering that is accessible across devices and time zones. When these go down, the cost – both financially and in terms of the trust a business has worked so hard to build – can be astronomical. 

For example, think back to June 2018, when a software update to TSB’s services left thousands of customers locked out of their accounts and unable to make payments. 

The brutal three-week outage cost the bank roughly £176m, and its chief executive left the company. Insufficient testing before the update was launched resulted in a huge loss of customer trust and revenue.

And this isn’t an issue that just affects individuals. Businesses are also becoming ever more reliant on platforms that handle data. So when the workplace messaging app Slack  suffered several outages in June and July, many organisations were disrupted.

An outage doesn’t only damage a customer’s trust in a provider – it also pushes them to look for alternatives. 

On average, if an outage occurs, consumers expect the issues to be resolved within two hours and 41 minutes – the same time it takes to fly to Paris and back from London. 

If it drags on, those alternatives can easily turn into permanent switches.  

You would think that, with the stakes so high, this would be a priority for businesses. Yet while the UK is currently at the forefront for technology, we risk lagging behind in this area. Our report found that organisations across the country are only planning to spend £11.2m on deploying cloud data management technologies within the next 12 months – a figure that sounds substantial, but is £21.6m less than the global average.

In today’s data-dependent world, being able to guarantee access to data is no longer a “nice to have”, but a basic, everyday requirement. At the moment, more than half of consumers say that there isn’t an organisation they trust the most when handling their data. 

Big problems make big headlines, and with consumer demands ever-growing when it comes to how and where their data is stored, companies which can show that they’re trustworthy with data will win market share.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.