It is no surprise that the world once feared the sudden global breakdown of computers at the advent of the millennium; the infamous Y2K. Without those computers society would suddenly be thrust into mass chaos akin to a zombie movie – just without the zombies.
In this modern day and age, software is as essential to our daily lives as indoor plumbing and electricity. In fact, one could argue that it is more important – the service companies that provide our daily necessities are run by complex software systems. If the company that provides your electricity experiences a software glitch, your lights may suddenly go out. The sudden loss of those services can be inconvenient at best, but at their worst, they are fatal.
So far we have looked at stories from 2014 detailing software failures across a range of industries: Finance, Government, Transportation, Entertainment, and Retail. Today, in our final installment recapping 2014, we look at the all too essential service industry.
Why have we spent all of this time looking at software failures in the past year? Firstly, it’s fun. But secondly (and more importantly), it drives home an important point: Software testing makes the world go round. It’s what keeps things working smoothly, it’s what allows companies to innovate without fear, it’s what keeps us out of Y2K. And that is why, at Tricentis, we do what we do.
Dropbox Deletes Files as Result of Bug in Dropbox Application
Dropbox found itself scrambling to assuage customers this past October after users found their files deleted by a Dropbox desktop application. A specific feature of the application, titled “Selective Sync” malfunctioned when used with older versions of Dropbox, causing the files to that were supposed to be synced to be deleted instead. Dropbox issued a patch to the fix, but in the meantime began work to recover the files (if possible) and offered affected clients a year of Dropbox for free.
National Grid Gas Company Loses Nearly 1 Billion Due to Software Malfunction
The National Grid Gas Company in New York State transitioned to a new SAP software system in 2012 with hopes of streamlining the back-office processes. Two years later, the National Grid Company is now paying over $500 million in excess costs due to the failure of that software to do its intended job. An audit conducted by the Public Service Commission found that the software had been incorrectly implemented, resulting in a range of problems from inaccurate paychecks to unpaid vendor bills. The original implementation, along with fixing the software, has brought the total cost of the system to nearly $1 Billion dollars, a sum which the company intends to collect from its shareholders.
Claremont Electric Incorrectly Charges Customers as Result of Software Error
Claremont Electric of Oklahoma were surprised by unexpectedly high electric bills this past September. According to reports, the company had updated their billing software in August, resulting in a glitch that undercharged customers for the month’s usage. The company opted to rectify the situation by increasing the bill the following month, hoping to make up their loss from the customers. While the company offered payment plans to customers who found the increased bill a hardship, it is easy to imagine that the small glitch lost the company a good deal of favor.
Vodacom Mobile Network Repairs Software Glitch that Leaked User Phone Numbers
A software glitch in Vodacom’s extensive international network resulted in subscriber’s phone numbers being leaked this past October. Ironically the leak occurred while Vodacom was issuing an update to increase the security of an application that allows clients to make purchases with using their phone number, charged toward their phone bill. Vodacom promptly resolved the issue and assured its subscribers that their phone numbers are not sold to third parties under any circumstances.
Microsoft Experiences Outages in Their Azure Cloud Platform
Microsoft’s global cloud platform, Azure, experienced intermittent outages as a result of a software bug this past November, some lasting as long as 11 hours. The outages affected an untold number of users, disrupting applications such as Microsoft Office, Xbox Live, etc. across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the effects of the bug could have been contained had the software update that initiated the bug been released according to standard operating procedure. Instead, this time the updated had been issued quickly internationally, dramatically increasing the effects and scale of the bug.
Brunswick Electric Customers Find Their Power Cut Due to Software Error
Over 1000 Brunswick Electric customers found themselves spending a long evening without electricity this past December, as a result of a software malfunction. While power outages are not surprising in extreme weather circumstances, these outages were due to an error in the software that allows customers to prepay for services. Rather than being ahead of the curve, as those customers had expected themselves to be, they found themselves victims of the very problem they were attempting to avoid.
Credit Card Glitch Blocks Transactions in Major Israeli Chains
A software glitch in the “clearing house” for a popular credit card resulted in transaction failures and mild chaos in multiple Israeli retail chains. Reports indicated long lines forming in gas stations and groceries stores as customers found themselves needing to find an ATM or stranded without gas in their cars. The error, which was later identified as being due to the input of the dollar currency exchange, was fixed by midafternoon – but not before interrupting or diverting thousands of sales. The Calcalist later estimated damages to the chains was in the range of $25,267 per minute.
More on Software Failures
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