I don’t think it’s a great idea to blog about my finances but this one surprised me so much I’ll share this personal piece of info with the internet: on the 29th of January this year I had an ING Direct account.

Last saturday (in the middle of the night) I wanted to log in to ING Direct. I don’t remember why, but that doesn’t matter. The website would not allow me to log in, at all. It gave me the following message:

ING DIRECT – save your money
Sorry for the inconvenience…

ING DIRECT is currently undergoing a planned temporary outage for maintenance on our web site.

If you have an urgent issue, please call us at 1-800-464-3473. If it is more convenient, please return later today to complete your transaction.

Alternatively, if you have an ABM card and you require immediate funds, you can access your money at any of the 40,000 Interac® connected bank machines across Canada.

We value your business and apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for your patience during this time.
Nous sommes désolés de cet inconvénient

ING DIRECT a interrompu temporairement son service afin de procéder à l’entretien de son site Internet.

En cas d’urgence, veuillez communiquer avec nous par téléphone à 1-800-464-3473. Si vous préférez faire vos transactions par Internet, nous vous invitons à revenir sur ce site un peu plus tard dans la journée.

De plus, si vous êtes détenteur d’une carte de guichet automatique et que vous avez un urgent besoin de liquidité, nous vous rappelons que vous avez accès à votre argent par le biais d’un réseau de quelques 40 000 guichets automatiques InteracMD répartis à travers le Canada.

Nous sommes fiers de vous compter parmi nos clients et nous nous excusons de tout désagrément qu’une telle situation peut engendrer. En vous remerciant de votre patience, nous vous prions d’accepter nos plus cordiales salutations.

And so you don’t think I’m kidding, here’s a screenshot:

I didn’t know what to think. There’s the green bar, so it was likely the real website. But surely “planned maintenance” was a bunch of bollocks. A branchless bank that has a single interface to its users (the web) cannot possibly have such an antiquated website that they need to take the whole thing down for maintenance?

It’s been down for hours at least. Can you imagine Google or Facebook or any other major internet website going completely offline for so long? And why should they? There are plenty of (now old and established) technologies and processes that allow live maintenance, upgrades, repairs, and even disaster recovery. How could it be that ING Direct does not use these?

And if it was planned, why did they not let me know in advance? It was not an emergency but I did call them to ask what the fuck is going on, the guy basically refused to tell me. He claimed this is common regular maintenance and it happens about once a month. Really? And if it’s planned, why did I not get any notice about it?

I googled several parts of the text in that error message. Found one reply to a thread in 2008 mentioning it. And that’s it. Does this really happen every month and noone bothered to mention it in a blog post or discuss it in a forum of some sort? Were they forced to take their posting down? They better not try such crap with me.

I suspect this was a major system failure, quite likely to do with security. It’s a bad idea to keep your users in the dark about major problems. I have savings there, and they may be CDIC insured, but I’m not looking forward to try and claim my savings from some agency I never had to deal with before. The last thing ING should want is me wondering (in public, on my blog) whether my savings are safe, whether the ING Direct website is secure, and whether their IT staff are completely incompetent.

I’m not even saying full disclosure was necessary. But don’t treat me like an idiot by claiming this was planned website maintenance. Shame on them. I can’t wait to get rid of my savings (buy a house maybe) so I don’t have to worry about such bullshit.