Warnings of Systems Crashes as ‘Cyber Monday’ Looms  

Carly Read
Senior Reporter

British tech firms warn of unsustainable demand following WhatsApp and Facebook crash  

Warnings of Systems Crashes as ‘Cyber Monday’ Looms  

British tech bosses are warning of potential systems crash as we approach Cyber Monday and the extra demand running up to the Christmas trading period.  

Following the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage this week that saw all three platforms went down for 6 hours this has perfectly highlighted how vulnerable even the biggest tech companies are to systems failures.  

There is a real concern that e-commerce systems will be pushed to breaking point, with an unprecedented surge in demand from shoppers and issues in the supply chain and delivery fulfilment.  

The warning comes as both high street and online retailers look to maximise their revenues and profits against a backdrop of untested e-commerce technology and software. In recent times this has been melded together at breakneck speed by a remote workforce and hasn’t been sufficiently tested. This makes systems vulnerable to coding errors, traffic tsunamis, DDoS attacks, ransomware, malware attacks and DNS provider downtime which will almost certainly lead to a lack of fulfilment, late delivery and even overcharging. 

A massive shortage of trained quality engineers in software testing to check, test and maintain software and e-commerce systems has created the perfect storm. Retailers face an unprecedented demand on the supply of products and the delivery of goods to the end user in their post-pandemic recovery and with Christmas only 12 weeks away.  

A number of British retailers have reported systems issues and websites crashing as the UK struggles to return to pre-pandemic output and cope with demand. Software testing plays a critical role in e-commerce retailing as we rely on more online purchases. 

Two British tech firms – Credersi and ROQ, which are at the forefront of tech training and software testing – are addressing the shortage.

ROQ provide services to the likes of legal giants Linklaters, as well as Deloitte, Boots, Specsavers, Unilever, MS Amlin, The Post Office and the NHS.

Stephen Johnson, Founder and CEO of ROQ Software Testing Solutions, said: “As we approach the busiest time of the year with Christmas weeks away, retailers are faced with an unprecedented set of demands from consumers. Demand is outstripping supply and goods are taking longer to manufacture and deliver. Much of this due in part to the factors of Brexit and the pandemic. 

“The Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage this week has also perfectly demonstrated the vulnerability of systems if they are not regularly tested. No company is too big to fall and the impact on any business can be devastating both financially and in losing customer trust and goodwill.

“This is also a time when retailers face huge spikes and surges in their e-commerce sites with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and increased online shopping with Christmas demand. Brexit and the pandemic have also created the perfect storm of skills shortages across a number of industries. Software testing provides an essential role to the core functionality of any retail and e-commerce business. Unless you rigorously test systems, you cannot find the weaknesses or vulnerabilities until it’s too late. Often for an e-commerce retailer, this comes at great financial cost and has a major impact on customers.”

In December of last year, the Debenhams website crashed when more than 1 million shoppers tried to access the site. The cloud computing service Fastly took down thousands of websites in multiple countries earlier this year, costing numerous businesses billions in lost revenue. Retailers such as Amazon and eBay also found their websites had disappeared for an hour. These 2 companies alone boast a combined £25 billion in annual sales in the UK, meaning a 1-hour outage would have cost £3 million between them over that period. Other e-commerce sites such as PayPal were also hit and based on their 2020 transactions of $963 billion, the 1-hour outage would have cost them around $106 million.

The skills shortage in software testing has also been accelerated by the offshoring of “testing services” and Brexit.

Andy Lord warned of the very real risk that if the UK does not train enough quality engineers for software testing, “there could be disastrous consequences not just for retail and e-commerce, but also business, industry and manufacturing who all need software systems tested.”

Addressing the software testing industry skills shortage post-Brexit, Credersi has teamed up with leading software testing experts ROQ. 

Lord, CEO of Manchester-headquartered tech training firm Credersi, said: “Not having enough skilled quality engineers will mean that operating software systems will become vulnerable to bugs, glitches and critical failure. This then has a domino effect and impacts on service delivery across the economy, as well as delays in online retailing and delivery.”

He continued: “In parallel, we only have to look at the current shortage of skilled lorry drivers who deliver our fuel supplies. The lack of skilled tanker drivers in this sector has had a huge impact on the physical delivery of fuel to the UK economy, despite there being plenty of fuel stocks. In turn, this then impacts the haulage industry and courier drivers who are fulfilling the e-commerce deliveries and cannot deliver the goods to their customers. This creates a domino effect and results in situations such as the panic-buying of fuel as we have just seen across the UK.”

Lord added: “This should be a wakeup call to ensure that companies invest heavily in training and upskilling their workforces across all business sectors in industry, manufacturing and technology, so we can compete equally on the global stage. Whether it’s training a new generation of lorry drivers to transport goods or fuel, or quality engineers in software testing, by increasing our workforce capacity we minimise and reduce the risks of critical failures.” 



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