Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
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Unbroken data chain

Xero login glitch locks out users


Xero this week apologised for a technical problem that blocked them from using the online accounting software for several hours on Tuesday (27 July).

29th Jul 2021
Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
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“At approximately 8.45am British Summer Time (BST) on Tuesday 27 July, we became aware that Xero users were unable to log into the Xero platform,” chief customer officer Rachael Powell informed customers via the Xero blog.

“The incident was related to our login platform, where a system used to store and trigger events in the login flow was not operating as expected, and so resulted in failures and errors showing for our customers.”

By 10.15am, AccountingWEB member Arthur Putey had alerted other accountants in an Any Answers post, Xero users unable to login. Those using the Xero app still had to access the system and users who were already logged in were not affected – unless they were automatically logged out after a period of inactivity such as a 30-min lunch break.

Running six-hour commentary

The AccountingWEB community provided a running commentary on the situation for the next six hours:

  • Ireallyshouldknowthisbut (11.25): I hope they have got the big plunger out and sacrifice several dozen goats… 10-15 mins of downtime is a coffee. More than a few hours is a problem.
  • Suepg (14:16): Definitely not yet back up....bit of a disaster so close to the MTD filing date with several large clients on Xero :(
  • Michaelbeaver (14:57): I couldn't get in. Finally got in, and can manoeuvre around, but now can't run reports. I think it's anything that checks your log in details or checks your permissions still isn't working (or isn't working again).
  • Tltodman (16:32): Ooh - hello - looks like it's back
  • Locutus of Borg (replying to Tltodman, 16:39): No change on Xero status page, but I'm back in too.

The Xero Status page provided regular updates during the day and finally confirmed that full service was restored around 4.30pm.

Apologies for inconvenience

In her blog on the outage, Powell commented: “I want to assure you that your data and personal information stored on Xero is secure. I know when these things happen, you may worry about the security of your data. I can assure you that this was not a security issue and no data was compromised.

“Ensuring the stability and reliability of the Xero platform for our customers is our highest priority. We are continuing our investigations to understand more about the cause.”

Xero UK managing director Gary Turner repeated the apology to AccountingWEB: “We regret any incident and take our responsibility seriously. The message from us is that it’s not acceptable.”

The modern world of connected apps increases the user’s dependence on their systems and Turner acknowledged how frustrating it can be when a cloud app like Xero is not available. “But it also makes us more productive compared to the old days when you had the software on your server. People conveniently forget the scheduled downtime with client-server systems and that you had to log out and leave your software behind at the end of the day,” he said.

Replies (13)

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By Hugo Fair
29th Jul 2021 18:57

I see Gary Turner has been taking lessons from our political classes as to what constitutes an "apology":
1. "The message from us is that it’s not acceptable" is itself unacceptable (and means absolutely nothing).
2. "acknowledge how frustrating it can be when a cloud app like Xero is not available. But it also makes us more productive compared to the old days .." - ye gods! So now unavailability is equated to increased productivity!?!
3. "People conveniently forget the scheduled downtime with client-server systems and that you had to log out and leave your software behind at the end of the day" ... what a load of tosh - any halfway competent client-server system can remain running 24/7 and is accessible from any (authorised) point around the world.

And Rachael Powell is no better ... "I know when these things happen, you may worry about the security of your data." True but a deliberate mis-direct in that the major 'worry' was far more fundamental in that the basis of many people's livelihoods was removed from them with no prior warning (let alone indication of when it would be returned).
The analogy would be if you got home in the evening to find that all your door-keys had stopped working (leaving you without access to your medicines or children or food or ...)! Yes you might worry about security later, but that would not be your instant concern (as I'm sure Xero know).

Thanks (3)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
By AdamMurphy
29th Jul 2021 20:24

I thought of a politician's answer when I read it too. But he's allowed to give it without question as too many people worship him.

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By AdamMurphy
29th Jul 2021 18:59

Never had any downtime with desktop hosted software, so nothing conveniently to forget.

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By FirstTab
29th Jul 2021 22:56

How will Xero compensate its customers for this? Xero, please respond.

A glib apology with 'we understand..." is just Xero PR and nothing more.

My suggestion is one month's Xero sub should not be invoiced.

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Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
30th Jul 2021 10:54

I also like the fact that "the software was not operating as expected". It would be nice if they said "we were making some changes behind the scenes to the live system and ******-up. Sorry, won't do it again"

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30th Jul 2021 12:20

Xero has always had a competitive advantage over peers due to its history of comparative reliability and professionalism. An outage of this duration is therefore a very serious issue indeed. I would like a full accounting of what happened and why it took so long to fix it (rather than the 10 minutes I would have expected to note some recent change made was going wrong and reverse it).

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Replying to TASG:
30th Jul 2021 13:00

I've read the Xero blogpost and I am dissatisfied with the level of detail. Why did the log in system stop working? Why did it take so long to fix? Gary?

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By suepg
30th Jul 2021 12:50

I think, what this has effectively done, is made us realise just how terrifyingly dependent we are on a cloud based software. With any other relied upon software, we create backups and are reassured that we have something to fall back on in the event of accessibility issues.

We wouldn't ordinarily close down any program without first saving our files and regularly backing our data up just in case of an unforeseen failure - but this was a whole new bag of wrong!

The timing of this outage, just days before a VAT quarter deadline meant that most of the urgent work we had scheduled in our office for that day, could not be done - AT ALL! Okay, it was just one day - but it really was wholly 'unacceptable' and the poorly worded apology fell on our deaf ears!

We found ourselves completely at the mercy of Xero and it wasn't a place we were comfortable with....that's not doing 'beautiful business'

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Replying to suepg:
By adam.arca
30th Jul 2021 13:09

And the lesson from that in my opinion (other opinions are of course available) is to not make yourself dependent.

For me, that means assiduously swerving cloud software except for the few clients who are insistent they want to use it. For others, it suggests that a more defensive stance might be to spread your clients over a number of different cloud platforms to try and minimise this sort of risk (but of course create some new risks).

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Replying to adam.arca:
By AdamMurphy
30th Jul 2021 18:41

Cloud software on here is The Emperors New Clothes fable

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Replying to AdamMurphy:
Chris M
By mr. mischief
03rd Aug 2021 20:28

This, plus the innate higher security risk of anything on the Cloud, were the two main factors which decided me against all Cloud options - except where a client was insistent on it - 10 years ago.

It's a decision I don't regret, constantly under review but I would make exactly the same decision again now.

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By DavidWatson
03rd Aug 2021 15:30

I am a Xero fan and use the software in my own business. But I think that this highlights an issue that not a lot of firms will be aware of. In Xeros T&Cs https://www.xero.com/uk/about/legal/terms/ these two clauses jump out:

“35. Data loss: Data loss is an unavoidable risk when using any technology. You’re responsible for maintaining copies of your data entered into our services. For information on how to do that, check out this article on Xero Central.
36. No compensation: Whatever the cause of any downtime, access issues or data loss, your only recourse is to discontinue using our services.”

So you should have backup copies of the data entered into Xero and there is no compensation due no matter what the cause of the outage or data loss.

I wonder how many firms have setup Xero on behalf of their clients accepted the T&Cs and not made the client aware of these two clauses? I doubt clients would be too happy if you tell them their data is lost and their is no comeback against Xero. I imagine that they would be looking to the firm to compensate them.

I would recommend that firms backup their Xero data with an independent third party there are a number out there offering this service for a few £s a month like Redstor https://www.redstor.com/solutions/xero-backup/ or Control C https://www.control-c.com . Or at least pass these clauses on in their engagement letter to clients.

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Replying to DavidWatson:
By AdamMurphy
03rd Aug 2021 20:36

For the price they charge, should THEY not have backup systems too?!

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