If I was going to make a post-apocalyptic horror film, I'm pretty sure it would start out in a Target, with hundreds of people waiting in long lines, unable to complete their Father's Day purchases because of a pair of global technology failures

Fortunately, the real-life version turned out far better over the weekend, when Target stores across the country (and apparently the world), suffered an outage with their point of sale systems for two hours on Saturday that meant that customers were unable to check out. 

Then on Sunday, it appears that some stores were only able to accept cash for about 90 minutes, with the company's payment processing system suffering a second outage.
 
While the company did their best to fix the situation, customers reported long lines, with many simply giving up and leaving.

Target hasn't said what caused either outage, only that the two were unrelated, and that Saturday's was the result of an "internal technology issue." While that could mean any number of different things, Target went out of its way to mention that neither was the result of an attack or data breach. 

Considering the massive data breach that Target suffered in 2013, it makes sense that people were concerned. The company attempted to alleviate those concerns, saying that "after an initial but thorough review, we can confirm this was not a data breach or security-related issue, and no guest information was compromised at any time."

We depend on technology to just work.

In reality, technology not only enables so much of our daily lives, but we've become dependent on it to the extent that small technological glitches can result in massive system failures. Even when it isn't the result of an attack or data breach, the results can be crippling.

Most of the time, we don't think about technology, since most of the time it just works. No one expects to show up at a store and be unable to make purchases. The same thing is true for the power grid, mobile phones, and the internet. We just expect them to work because most of the time, they do. 

In reality, however, the infrastructure that makes it work is actually quite fragile. Most of our daily lives depends on interconnected pieces of hardware, all of which run sophisticated software code. While many of the most critical pieces have backups and redundancy, that isn't always the case. 

The lesson for your business.

The same is true for your business. If your business can be brought to a standstill with the failure of one piece of software, or hardware, you owe it to yourself and to your customers to have a plan in place to handle it. A company like Target can survive a few hours of lost sales, even on a busy day like the Saturday before Father's Day. Can yours?

Target's team reacted quickly to address the issue, but that's because it's a multi-billion dollar corporation with a team dedicated to fixing problems like this. That probably isn't true for your business, yet the underlying truth still is. We're all just one technology fail away from chaos. 

The only question is, are you preparing your business for when it happens? 

Published on: Jun 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.