The topic for debate was "Zero Downtime C Myth or Reality". Ramachandran Narayanan of National Library Board, an end user, shared his experience managing downtime as Infocomm director, saying that a line had to be drawn between scheduled and unscheduled downtime. He advised the audience to investigate if upgrading resulting in downtime could move forward by stages, citing previous experience.
PK Lim said that zero downtime is virtually impossible, giving evidence that a lot of things are unpredictable. The key thing, he said, is the risk level, and how to manage that to an acceptable level.
Albert Tay agreed with Lim. He added that of primary importance would be the time needed to recover the system, and whether there was a redundancy plan in place for both the hardware and the software of IT infrastructure.
After Ross Storey opined that most customers would like to be informed of problems and solutions, rather than be kept in the dark, Victor Law spoke of the importance of change and configuration management. The majority of network outage, he said, was because someone made a change. And the change was either not properly applied or a mistake had been made. That would make it important, he said, to check changes and make automated recovery.
This was partly backed up by Albert Tay, who said that 99 per cent of wireless queries at the helpline were due to a wrong configuration or due to a mistake.
Following on, Alvin Tan said that prioritization is an important factor to plan scheduled downtime. His version of the critical issue is that without unlimited time and resources, it is important to mainly focus on the processes that could really affect your business.
Jeffrey Ho from Singapore Institute of Management, the other end user panelist, remarked from his experience that user expectations do need to be managed. "It is not about technical issues", he said, "but about business survival".
To that end, he advised the audience to learn from every occurrence and incident, as ignored weakness would come back to haunt them. He had earlier mentioned that SIM as end user now views students as customers of their IT system which could explain his concern.
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