Delta’s Outlook: Cloudy | Backup & Recovery Strategies Do Matter

We have all read the headlines: Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines experienced a massive power outage that led to the cancellation of thousands of foreign and domestic flights. This seismic event took place at the height of the summer travel season — which was not good news for Delta and anyone trying to get somewhere. Anyone who was heading off on a vacation, or a trip to see grandma or the grandkids, was stranded on the tarmac of many airports nationwide and internationally.

This event comes at a particularly bad time for Delta. For the past two years, Delta has pushed a public campaign of canceling cancellations. Executives boasted publically about going nearly 100 days without a single flight cancellation on their company-owned jets. Delta was the envy of the entire airline industry until recently.

It’s never a good time for a failure that leads to canceling thousands of flights and stranding passengers, but this event came at a particularly bad time. The height of the summer season for travel and Delta’s stellar track record of uninterrupted service all added to the sting of this outage.   

So what happened? The details still remain sketchy. But according to Delta’s press release, “following the power loss, some critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to Delta’s backup systems.” In the cloud era of always-on, 24x7xForever and uninterrupted service, this event was a catastrophe — but it was avoidable.

This event demonstrates the vulnerabilities of not having cohesive disaster recovery for the cloud with components such as failover capabilities and built-in redundancy. We believe that cloud (public and private) are at the centerpiece of a well-crafted DR strategy. That said, we cannot (and most likely will not) know all the details of Delta’s perilous Monday. 

We do know for sure that Delta’s infrastructure failed in grand fashion, and they were not able to adequately recover from the outage — tarnishing their corporate image, potentially losing their customer loyalty, and losing time and money. They will recover, but their bottom line will be severely impacted.

When disaster strikes, can any organization be truly prepared? We believe they can — and that Delta’s event was preventable. Some key questions for Delta we have are:

  • What is your DR strategy?
  • How do you ensure this never happens again?
  • Do you have an end-to-end cloud-based system to enables you to scale your environment and provide for rapid recovery?
  • More importantly, do you have a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy that incorporates cloud services?

We expect that Delta’s long-term outlook will remain cloudy, depending on how they can answer these questions.

Best practices for incorporating cloud services into a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy

We all know the cloud era is here to stay, but adoption is still anemic for most organizations. In fact, Spiceworks reported in a recent survey that “only 35 percent of organizations with over 500 employees use cloud services in any form as part of their existing backup and recovery process.” This statistic is somewhat surprising given the benefits that the integration of cloud services can bring to the data protection process, particularly with scalability, reduction in CapEx costs, and rapid recovery of data and applications.

Moreover, third-party research firm DCIG recently published a paper, “Best Practices for Incorporating Cloud Services into a Comprehensive Backup and Recovery Strategy,” that outlines nine key steps companies must be mindful of when incorporating cloud services with a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy. This paper is instructive and enlightening for any company looking to avoid the unavoidable.

It was only a matter of time before Delta experienced a catastrophic event that took their systems offline. Ironically, statistically speaking, the longer period of time that elapsed between outages increased Delta’s chances of a catastrophic event taking them offline. It is certainly not a time to publicly say they are canceling cancellations. We may never know all the facts that led up to Delta’s crash, but we know they have not fully thought through the implications of their backup and recovery plans, particularly with cloud integration.