U.S. Customs Systems Shutdown

Organizations need automation to prepare and protect them against potential tech glitches like the one that caused the U.S. Customs outage.

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US Customs systems shutdown

Monday night, thousands of travelers in airports across the United States were stuck for hours, due to a technical glitch that affected U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A nationwide system shutdown from the hours of 5 pm to 9 pm plagued airports in Miami, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Fort Lauderdale and more, lining up fliers and forcing them to wait anywhere from thirty minutes to a few hours. This of course caused massive frustration among both airline employees and travelers alike. Many people were angered and shocked that in today’s uber-digital day and age, technical hiccups like these can still wreak so much havoc and have such a widespread impact. Security is a major theme in the IT industry today —but many IT and tech users are focusing all of their energy on protecting their systems from digital hackers, and failing to protect their systems from the unpredictable danger of technology malfunctions.

There is no way to predict the unpredictable, so users must be prepared and protected in advance from system outages such as this. Most organizations are relying on a large number of different applications and technologies across various departments to increase their business productivity, but with this productivity comes the increase in the chance of errors caused by connecting applications and technologies. It is critical that organizations keep in mind the underlying IT infrastructure that is allowing them to pass data between these disparate systems. Just because these technologies are able to work together, doesn’t mean they are doing so in a strong, unbreakable fashion. Not all of these applications are brand new and cutting edge, and even the ones that are new have to communicate with the older legacy technologies. Bringing these different technologies and applications together to perform day to day operations is not an easy task. Developers too often are writing custom script after custom script to build bonds to allow these applications to speak to one another. This causes a strong reliance on custom code —which can be dangerously error prone. One small error in a script, one minor delay in manual alerting, or one small miscommunication can bring daily business operations —such as allowing airline travelers through Customs— to a screeching halt.

We have no way of knowing when there is going to be a technological malfunction. Just over a year ago in July of 2015 for example, we saw the world’s largest stock exchange (the NYSE), the Wall Street Journal’s website, and United Airlines all experience failures in the same day due to technical glitches. This brought all trading to a halt, shut down the site, and grounded flights all over the United States. Organizations should be taking preventative measures to reduce the chances of being victims to a crash like this.

An example of a preventative measure could be implementing an IT automation solution. A modern workload automation solution can ensure reliable and successful IT operations. For example, an automation solution can provide pre-built integrations to simplify the connections between your different applications and technologies. This almost eliminates the chance of a manual error and allows for simplified, coordinated workflow creation and maintenance. An automation solution can also offer a change management system to provide an error-free approach to synchronizing and managing objects across all different environments such as Test, QA, and production. With an automation solution that offers an onboard Change Management tool, organizations can dramatically reduce the delays and errors that usually come hand-in-hand with manually deploying and updating workflows across different systems and environments. These reduced delays can mean the difference between a successful workday, and one where hundreds of customers have to wait hours to get through Customs after they get off of their flight. An automation solution can also offer reliable high availability—which transfers the job scheduling load to a standby Job Scheduler in case of failure or unresponsiveness from the preferred Job Scheduler. An automation solution can not only protect against potential failures, but also improve overall IT operations in both Mode 1 and Mode 2 of Gartner’s Bimodal IT approach. Mode 1 IT operations need adherence to things like change management procedures, while Mode 2 is able to run operations at a faster, more continuous pace.  Despite their differences however, a dynamic workload automation solution can be leveraged in both modes—yet another reason why workload automation solutions are becoming a best practice for Bimodal IT.

This applies to any and all industries, just about anyone can be affected by a technical glitch like this. The technological advancements that affect us are growing every day, and organizations are constantly going to be turning to new technologies and applications to better their business operations. It’s time that businesses look to a workload automation and job scheduling solution to combat their cluttered IT environments and reduce their chances of making a mistake that will affect hundreds or thousands of customers.

To read more about automation and it’s key role in both modes of Bimodal IT, check out our free eBook!

Caroline Boyland was a contributor to IT Automation Without Boundaries, covering workload automation, data center automation, cloud management, and more.