Total Reliance on Technology

Approximately two weeks ago, our community had a brief power outage that caused the local college computer servers to shut down.  Our campus is an extension to the main campus located some 31 miles away. Oddly enough, they too experienced a power outage that also caused a two-day shutdown.   This temporary shut-down lasted for two full days, bringing all online classes and services to a standstill, including telephone services. It is not my purpose here to question an IT department’s ability to resolve an issue in a timely manner, but wonder how it is that an institute of higher learning would not have planned for such occurrences, regardless of their infrequency.

To be fair to the college, this is not an isolated concern. There is no denying we have become totally reliant on technology to manage, operate and control, not only information systems, but mechanical systems as well. Damns, traffic lights, cell phones, GPS systems, public utilities, air traffic control, etc., all depend on the continuous operation of computer servers to maintain the functions they are in control of.

It is no surprise machines and systems break down or malfunction from time to time. What I do not understand is the seeming lack of planning and foresight for such occurrences. Many stores have back-up generators to restore power, but no manual system for checking people out if the servers controlling the cash registers fail. On several occasions, my bank and other financial institutes have claimed their computers were down so they were unable to help me. In today’s world of total reliance on technology, I think it is inexcusable that all major IT systems do not have instant back-up or crossover capabilities.  I would think that a good manager would automatically think-ahead for anything that would interfere with operations and production.

This brings me back to the ironic failure of an institute of higher learning being totally caught off-guard by such a predictable event. They said it was unprecedented. I say it was inevitable. Is it not their purpose in life to teach people to anticipate, plan and prepare? It makes it even more amusing having walked into a little Mom and Pop grocery store last winter during a power outage and seeing Coleman lanterns blazing away and the cashier writing out manual receipts with actual carbon paper! We should never forget how to stick to the basics.

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