No businesses plan to experience IT downtime, nor do they want to go through the stress of recovering from one. Unfortunately it’s an inevitable evil, and the best you can do is to plan and prepare for such an eventuality. Some do it better than others – one of our customers experienced a fire that took down their IT systems and rendered their server room inaccessible for 2 days. They were back working business as usual within 40 minutes. Others perhaps don’t plan so well, and hope it won’t happen to them. It’s when it does happen that they’ll probably take a bit more notice of their Disaster Recovery solution.
Take iZettle for example, whose servers have recently been down. On their website they state they are used by ‘hundreds of thousands of businesses’ to take payments– easy to use, simple to set up and there to grow with your business. A great service, until it doesn’t work. One customer of theirs, Camper Cafe, uses iZettle to take payments. Their pop-up coffee business relies on the technology to accept card payments. Yesterday was an opportunity for them to work with Vodafone for the first time and they were set up outside the head office, ready to serve coffee as part of an event around road safety. Unfortunately for them, iZettle’s servers were down. Although the reason is still not clear, the impact for Camper Cafe was very clear. “Lost sales were just the tip of the iceberg. Our main customer, the company that contracted us, was using us for the first time and we wanted to demonstrate our forward thinking technology and excellent service. Unfortunately we couldn’t deliver on our promises yesterday which is really disappointing for us” says the owner of the business. And Camper Cafe was just one of hundreds of thousands of customers impacted yesterday, meaning the total cost of the downtime would have likely been in the £millions.
And for iZettle it’s not the first time. On a Friday the 10 July, a customer contacted iZettle via Facebook as they couldn’t take payments or print receipts. For a busy cafe that’s open over the weekend, their busiest time when they can take the most revenue, they were looking for support from their payments provider. Being a corporate business, iZettle were closed over the weekend and finally announced the issue had been resolved on the Monday. There was no customer service over the weekend for support and in the words of the customer “apology does not cover lost business because of your downtime”
So what can companies like iZettle do? Firstly communication is key. In the instance yesterday there were 2 responses to us on on twitter when we asked for details about the problem- the first being at 12:25 acknowledging the problem but not giving any useful answers on when resumption of service would be likely, the second at 17:42 announcing the service was back up again. Not particularly useful for a small company that’s constantly attempting to take payments and unable to focus on the operational side of the business when the payments side is down. What would have been better would be a 30 minute update on progress, and communication from someone that was a bit closer to the heart of the problem than the social media team. Secondly, a review of the recovery and DR strategy is sensible after such an incident to decide whether it can be improved. Communication around any learnings would demonstrate to customers that they are valied and that iZettle would like to protect them against the risk of IT downtime.
Whilst we appreciate that any incident of downtime is unfortunate, small changes in the communication and better preparation for IT downtime can make a big difference to the end users and customers who inevitably bear the brunt of the problem. We’re not here to berate iZettle as we know that they didn’t purposely take down their IT systems, and we know they worked hard to resume service for their customers, but what their customers would really like is the respect of a bit more communication around the future of their Disaster Recovery plans.