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British Airways IT Outage Could Be Down To Human Error

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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However, the airline denies that to be the case

Human error could be to blame for the British Airways power outage which knocked its critical IT systems offline and caused chaos for its passengers. 

A source familiar with the issue told The Times that the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in BA’s data centre, designed to prevent a data centre  from shutting down in the case of a mains power disruption,  was in perfect working order when a maintenance contractor deliberately shut it down. 

With the UPS offline a smooth transition from mains power to a backup diesel generator was not possible which caused systems to get damaged when power was restored in an uncontrolled fashion which subsequently caused the IT failure. 

BA has so far blamed a power surge for the outage and causing damage that prevented its backup systems from spinning up. It has thus far noted that the problem was not an IT one but a power issue. 

The Times reported that an investigation the UPS was in full working order at the time of the outage, which would indicate BA’s IT failure could be blamed on the actions of an engineer reportedly for CBRE Global Workplace Solutions, a firm now assisting BA with its investigation into the outage. 

However, according to The Guardian, CBRE has stated that the outage was not cased by the actions of the contractor’s engineer: “We are the manager of the facility for our client BA and fully support its investigation. No determination has been made yet regarding the cause of this incident. Any speculation to the contrary is not founded in fact.” 

Information in a vacuum 

Fact or fictionA BA spokesperson told Silicon that it is still looking into the issues, and has not shed anymore light on the situation other than refuting relating the outage to outsourcing. 

“We are conducting an urgent investigation and it would be premature to comment on details before its conclusion,” the spokesperson said. 

  “As we’ve said before it was not an IT issue, it was a power issue. There was no data corruption or loss and IT outsourcing was not a factor.” 

However, according to a source of The Sun, the knock-on effects of the outage could be felt for months to come as corrupted data has yet to surface and human error is to blame. 

“It’s very much human error that’s to blame. It’s not over yet,” the source said. 

So it would appear that the waters are very much muddied around the root cause of BA’s rather disastrous outage; time will tell is the outage was simply a power problem cause by hardware or the mistaken actions of an engineer. 

However, the whole outage makes a very good case for large organisations with complex IT to embrace more cloud based infrastructure

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