IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 19th June 2005

Where were you when the lights went out? OK, that’s somewhat over-dramatic for a power cut that happened in the middle of the day in summer in a desert country, but there’s no doubt that Dubai’s power outage was a pretty memorable event.

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By  Peter Branton Published  June 19, 2005

The day the lights went out|~||~||~|Where were you when the lights went out? OK, that’s somewhat over-dramatic for a power cut that happened in the middle of the day in summer in a desert country, but there’s no doubt that Dubai’s power outage was a pretty memorable event. For those of you not living in Dubai, on June 9 the emirate was hit by a major power cut, which affected some parts of the city for several hours. It began at around 9.50am, and full power was not restored until late in the afternoon, although the effects were not evenly felt across the city. The whole event served to prove the adage that absence really does make the heart grow fonder, being without power for even a few minutes has such a major impact on our lives. The phone networks went down quickly (although try getting Etisalat to admit to that), the roads were chaotic as traffic signals were down, while petrol pumps were inoperable, buildings started heating up as air conditioning stopped working, generally across town businesses and residents weren’t sure what to do. For many people, the answer was pretty obvious: go to the beach. After all, there are certain benefits of living in a coastal resort town, and being within driving distance of beaches that many people travel thousands of miles to visit is one of them. Public beaches reported massive attendances as local residents took advantage of the unscheduled downtime to catch up on some serious sun. Luckily, the IT Weekly production team chose not to exercise this option, they worked that day to ensure that last week’s issue made it to the printers on time and was printed and distributed as per normal. Hats off to them. Actually, the IT Weekly editorial team also chose not to tan, the whole team was working again on Thursday afternoon once power was restored. For IT companies, such events are both an interruption of their working day and a chance to plug their products: one enterprising PR company was quick off the mark once power was restored and sent out a press release extolling the virtues of backup and recovery products. Doubtless, sales executives for uninterruptible power supply systems found a more receptive audience last week — once people had come back from the beach that is. We could go on, but you get the general idea. Reluctant though we are to play the industry’s game, it does have to be said that there are some salutary lessons to be learned from such events. What level of outage can you afford? What counts as essential? These are issues that aren’t just about power outages of course. Your business may not grind to a halt if your human resources system is down for an afternoon – if all your staff have gone to the beach, then why worry? – but could you survive for any length of time without e-mail? What about your web site, how much business would you lose if customers could not access it? For Dubai, the cost of the power outage is hard to calculate, by one reckoning it could be as much as US$73million. That’s based on the value of Dubai’s gross domestic product, which was US$26.7billion last year, or US$73million a day. The cost of losing a day’s business may not amount to that much (and presumably, some of that business would be made up in subsequent days) but it is a sobering statistic. In today’s business world, with razor-thin profit margins, ask yourself how much business you can afford to lose, and what is going to impact it and then weigh up the cost of protecting yourself. Maybe it is time to give those salesmen a call.||**||

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