7 System Outages That Hurt Major Businesses and Government Agencies in Q2 2018

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It seemed like no sector was immune to IT downtime this quarter, with some of the world’s biggest players humbled by disaster recovery solutions that were inadequate to prevent costly system outages.

Sometimes we cover failures that affect lesser-known companies, or those that are of technical interest but don’t have much long-term damage. However, this quarter, all the players involved are major businesses, and their outages involved thousands — and in some cases millions — of people.

Massive financial, communications, health care, and technology companies all suffered from system outages in the second quarter of 2018. Due to the severity of some problems, even national governments became involved and demanded explanations – unless they themselves were to blame. In many cases, companies decided (or were forced) to provide compensation to businesses and consumers that found themselves adrift, usually at a very inconvenient time (which is when these disasters always seem to happen). To make things worse, most of this quarter’s crashes lasted many hours, which adds significantly to the expense, considering the high cost of downtime  for enterprises.  

Related: Use this CloudEndure Infrastructure Calculator for an instant comparison of disaster recovery infrastructure costs

Without further ado, check out the top 7 outages of Q2 2018:

 1. I.R.S. Website Crashes on Tax Day as Millions Tried to File Returns
When: April 17, 2018
Duration: Approximately 12 hours
What Happened: Early on the last filing day of the tax year, the Direct Pay service of the I.R.S. website announced the longest “planned outage” in world history – scheduled to last from that day until December 31, 9999! That’s what you get when you combine some software from the 1960s, budget cuts, and one of the busiest tax days of the year. Despite the fact that this crash, which was not “planned” at all, was predicted by many, no effective action was taken by the U.S. government. The I.R.S. took the exceptional measure of granting taxpayers another day to file, while a hardware issue was blamed for the crisis.

2. Sutter Health cancels surgeries at Alta Bates amid wider outage
When: May 14, 2018
Duration: 24 hours
What happened: An activated fire suppression system led to a day-long outage at the Alta Bates Hospital in California, which was forced to cancel surgeries and turn away patients from the emergency room. Sutter Health manages two dozen hospitals in California, and they were all affected to some extent as the company’s ironically-named Epic electronic health record system was eventually revived. Sutter actually has a contingency plan for these incidents, yet it seemed ineffective as hospital staff were forced to used pen and paper to record patient data.

3. National Australia Bank says it will compensate customers for five-hour outage
When: May 26, 2018
Duration: 5 hours
What happened: Consumers relying on the online, mobile, point of sale, and ATM services of the National Australia Bank (NAB) found themselves unable to pay as the bank’s systems failed across the country. NAB explained that an electrical failure at their Melbourne office caused the incident. Although it only lasted five hours or so, some were claiming that the problem had cost them thousands of dollars. In a surprise move, NAB promised to compensate any of its customers who had suffered losses due to the issue, and invited them to approach the bank with their complaints.

4. Visa reveals ‘rare’ datacentre switch fault as root cause of June 2018 outage
When: June 1, 2018
Duration: 10 hours
What Happened: A vision of the apocalypse was presented to consumers and stores throughout the UK when the network of Visa Europe in the UK failed. Initial fears were that their system had been hacked, but it turns out that a hardware failure was to blame. Even the British government got involved as it demanded an explanation for the incident, which led to the failure of a whopping 5.2 million swipes across the UK and Europe. ATM machines across the UK ran out of money as people were forced to resort to cash.

5. London Stock Exchange’s glitch: Just the latest high-profile outage to rile traders
When: June 7, 2018
Duration: 1 hour
What happened: The London Stock Exchange trading was delayed at the start of the day due to a software failure. Luckily for the LSE, the crash only lasted an hour. The 217-year-old exchange operates one of Europe’s largest cash equity markets, so many traders were left frustrated by the delayed open. This was the first major outage of its kind in seven years; the exchange’s last major outage was in 2011, after it moved to a new platform. Other stock exchanges have not been so fortunate, as we have reported in the past, with severe blackouts leading to expensive compensation for traders.

6. Australian fans angered by World Cup outage
When: June 15, 2018
Duration: 2 days
What Happened: Optus, an Australian communications firm, got practically everyone mad – including the Prime Minister – when its live streaming of World Cup games in Russia began to have serious issues. Starting with the Cup’s initial games, viewers watching on mobile devices suffered from complete blackouts, frozen screens, and error messages. The problems lasted until Sunday evening – so long that even PM Malcom Turnbull tweeted that he had shared a gentle word about the failure with the CEO of Optus. Optus refunded the $15 that each subscriber had paid to use the mobile service, and extended free use of its sports streaming service until the end of August. This story is reminiscent of Hulu’s Super Bowl crash that we reported on in Q1 2018.

7.  Apple Maps has been down for hours, and people are pissed
When: June 15, 2018
Duration: 4.5 hours
What happened: A global blackout affected all devices using Apple Maps for almost five hours, forcing travelers to use other ways to find their way. This failure also had an impact on other Apple products and services such as the Apple Watch and CarPlay, as well as third-party apps that rely on Apple Maps. Apple Inc. gave no explanation for the incident. Apple Maps has not had the most glorious history, particularly when it was introduced in 2012 to compete with Google Maps, and featured gems such as sideways bridges and blank areas in the middle of major cities.

2018 DR Survey Report