I live in the Northeast and we got clobbered last weekend by a freak October snow storm that dumped heavy wet snow across New England taking down trees and power lines and leaving more than a million people across three states without power. It was an outage for the ages and with downed trees and debris littering the landscape it was a highly unusual situation.
That’s why I was surprised to see politicians starting to play the blame game with utilities after several days when in spite of a lot of progress, many people were still in the dark. My lights came on Sunday afternoon (although I had no land line or Internet until yesterday), so maybe I could afford to be magnanimous, but from what I saw as I drove around the last few days, crews were hard at work cleaning and getting things going as quickly as they could under the circumstances.
And these were extraordinary circumstances which required the help of crews from across the country. I heard of guys from as far away as Kansas in the area helping to clean up the trees and get the power lines back up. It’s not as though the utility companies, at least in my area, were being cavalier about getting people up and running.
In my town alone, at the height of the outage, 98 percent of the town was without power. That’s just remarkable and it was just one town of many across several states that the power companies were dealing with.
It got me thinking that cloud companies face a similar issue when outages happen. Whether it’s Google, Microsoft or Amazon (or RIM’s recent issues) when well publicized outages hit, those with their own agenda tend to pile on — even when it’s a complete freak of nature like the lightning strike in Ireland last summer.
And the same thing can happen inside your organization when a critical application or web site that you are in charge of monitoring goes down. Even when the outage is due to an act of God, completely beyond your control, it doesn’t mean that managers and executives with their own political agendas aren’t going to use the opportunity to hammer you.
There’s not much you can do when people make political hay from your misery, but you can at least be prepared that when things go wrong, no matter what the cause, it’s human nature to play the blame game, whether it’s fair or not.
All you can do, is prepare the best you can for these situations and have your data ready to respond. You might not have US Senator breathing down your neck like the utilities in Massachusetts have had this week, but you could have an opportunistic executive and that can be just as bad from your perspective.