NAB online banking, cards suffer more problems, blames data centre

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NAB online banking, cards suffer more problems, blames data centre

Says $4.5bn cloud transformation will improve things, eventually.

The National Australia Bank’s online infrastructure has suffered another unexpected wobble just days after Friday’s outage with the institution revealing the earlier glitch was caused by problems in its data centre.

The bank on Tuesday afternoon confirmed it was “experiencing intermittent problems” with its mobile app, NAB Connect and internet banking services, saying investigations were again afoot to sort out the bother.

The problems are "causing balances to not display correctly across Internet Banking, NAB Connect and ATMs," NAB said via social media, adding the "issue has also caused an outage with our Mobile App."

"This is affecting all credit/debit card accounts and intermittently some other accounts."

NAB's latest problems come in what will be a tense week for major online businesses.

Data centres across Australia are on high alert for potential electricity supply problems as temperatures soar into the 40 range prompting the Australian Energy Market Operator to caution generators to boost supply to prevent damaging brown outs and load shedding as the national grid sags under the persistent heat.

NAB on Tuesday issued an apology to customers for Friday’s outage, with the institution’s executive general manager for infrastructure, cloud and workplace Steve Day revealing the retail bank had to shift hosting facilities during the glitch.

“We experienced failures in one of our data centres which impacted the stability of those services and required us to move our internet and mobile banking applications to a back-up data centre,” Day said.

“All other services, including our branches, ATMs, EFTPOS and phone banking were running as usual.”

The NAB has also sought to distance the incident from its ongoing $4.5 billion tech overhaul and giant multi-cloud push that it has part-way through rolling out to break years of legacy infrastructure dependency.

“We are significantly investing to improve our customer experience. NAB is going through a three-year transformation and investing in technology that allows us to be more reliable; be able to change quicker and be more efficient for our customers,” Day said, adding that “cloud technology is playing a major role in our transformation.”

“Our public, multi-Cloud approach will allow us to leverage the best services across different public cloud providers, to mitigate risk and help deliver the best capabilities and innovations to our customers and for our business,” Day said.

NAB’s cloud chief also stressed that moving to cloud would boost reliability and performance, despite the most recent issues.

 “One of the key aims of our Cloud approach is to be far less dependent on the physical infrastructure within our traditional data centres. As the transformation progresses, our new strategy will dramatically improve our resilience to individual component failures within a data centre.”

Having made the shift to cloud later than some banks, namely CBA and Westpac, one of the challenges NAB now faces is that customer and regulatory tolerance for outages has now substantially diminished.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is conspicuously sweating retail institutions to lift their resilience gain as Australians continue to dump cash usage in droves, a cultural and systemic shift that by its nature amplifies the consequences of online and electronic transaction service outages.

RBA governor Philip Lowe last year flagged that if online availability problems persisted the powerful Payment Systems Board could introduce minimum standards for institutions to adhere to, a move that could act to allow affected customers to sheet the cost outages back to their institutions.

A key issue the RBA is grappling with is public perception of banks’ technical reliability and systemic trust, especially when users besiege social media to vent their fury at banks.

NAB’s customers duly unloaded on Tuesday afternoon.

Embracing the spirit of competition some feel is lacking in Australia’s banking oligopoly, ANZ said it was ready to embrace refugees.

And despite NAB posting that the issue had been fixed on Tuesday evening, customers disputed services had been restored and continued to complain of ongoing issues.

But behind the obligatory outrage of social media, a more complex challenge for regulators is figuring out the actual level of service detriment hitting customers as opposed to how loudly they howl, a factor that will necessarily come into play if minimum performance standards are set.

NAB, its suppliers and the RBA will all be hoping it won’t come to that.

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