Friday 24 July 2015

A 21st Century Business Catastrophe

Mrs D and I are wont to spend a few bob on organised holiday travel and yesterday, with an eye to the soft EUR, rang up about a tour that caught our fancy.  "Have you ever travelled with us before?" asked the operative.  Too bloody right we have, check how much £££ you've taken off us over the past several years.

"Oh, we've moved to a new computer system and it's lost our customer records."

WTF?  Lists of personal details like that are the lifeblood of such firms, and change hands for serious money.   At the very least, they'll be scrabbling to retrieve their data from some deep archive, or boot up the old system again, with days of really inefficient working and lost opportunities in the meantime.  At worst, they're buggered.

I have been inclined to hold up (e.g.) airline booking systems as an example of how superior private enterprise software projects are compared to the NHS etc; though we all know the private sector is capable of monstrous cock-ups too.  But for a travel firm to be deprived of its customer records?!   Sheesh.  This is 2015:  they have put themselves in the hands of morons.



Steven_L said...

and change hands for serious money

Or get 'deleted' for serious money? There are some not very nice people out there.

SumoKing said...

more likely a translation of;

"I can't work our new system but I'll blame IT over admitting to a customer that beauty school didn't work out and I wasn't photogenic enough for the BBC's "Call Centre" docusoap"

Anonymous said...

Depends on how old the old system was. In the past I've been handed encrypted backups for a system that was no longer around, and just had to tell them the data is gone. Retrieving data from a system that stored data in it's own binary format, and encrypted, is an expensive and time consuming process with no guarantees.

If that was the case, they'd have been better off hiring some out-of-school to spend a few weeks manually re-inputting the data before killing the old system off. Boring job, but in exchange for a jolly some place sunny and a bit of spending money, worth it.

Anonymous said...

What is concerning for me, 'old data' and does it ever really disappear?

Encrypted files can be re-opened and by just about anyone these days, the trouble is, if it's on computer - it's accessible - even if it's supposedly "gone".

Anonymous said...

"they'd have been better off hiring some out-of-school to spend a few weeks manually re-inputting the data before killing the old system of"

I worked for someone who did that. The cheapo staff enlivened the task by adding minor (and abusive) amendments to the names. No one noticed until the first letters went out.

John miller said...

I remember backing up my firms files using one of the first CD drives, only to discover several months later the batch of 3 CDs I was using were crap.

Ever since then I've had 3 computers whose sole function is to hold data. Never again. I aged about 20 years when one CD after another failed to work.

This may be why I was disbelieving of the lovely Amber. I have a mental age of 92...

Hopper said...

John Miller: a useful lesson that more people should know. If you're not doing periodic test restores from your backups, you don't actually have backups - you just have (in the case of this media) some extra drinks coasters.
A previous employer had two instances of its systems: the customer-facing one and a test variant that they filled with dummy data to test new code versions before rollout. They had a rigorous backup schedule of the database with a full dump every week and incremental (transaction log) backups daily. Finally, something went wrong with the customer-facing system and they needed to do a restore. Guess which database instance the backups had been pointed at?