This morning Westpac customers were unable to access their accounts by either ATMs or Eftpos terminals. The reported cause of the incident was an air conditioning failure at their data centre, yes apparently they only have one.
St George Bank customers were also affected as they are a subsidiary of Westpac and rely on the same infrastructure. Securing customers data and finances is certainly incredibly important, but its clear from this event that storing it all at one location places a single point of failure in your infrastructure.
We seen the same issue arise in recent weeks with some Amazon EC2 customers suffering outages to their services, also relying on infrastructure that had a single point of failure. The real answer to these issues is of course de-centralisation and redundancy. Content Distribution networks like Akamai offer this for media and file downloads across the world and allow traffic to be re-routed should one link in the chain go down.
While Banks certainly doesn’t have a five 9’s agreement with individuals, they may have SLA’s with businesses. An outage of a few hours this morning not only damages the brand and put doubt in customers minds, but also may have financial implications for Westpac.
While the issue was first reported at 5am this morning, it became more widespread in the following hours to then effect customers nationwide. Thankfully the issue has now been resolved. Customers were advised during the outage to go into a branch or use phone banking.
More info on the issue @ The Age