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Susan Fogarty
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Deadly Downtime: The Worst Network Outages Of 2013

When the network is down, nobody is happy. Take a lesson from these major outages in 2013 so we won't see them repeated in the new year.
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The more we rely on technology, the more devastating it is when there's a network or systems failure. And no matter how many redundancies and failovers service providers and private businesses build into their backup plans, it's amazing how one small blip in the wire can still bring everything to a screeching halt.

Sometimes it's just an annoyance. Imagine my husband's extreme irritation when, three-quarters of the way through the season finale of Sons of Anarchy, our television screen suddenly displayed "Attention: Your Explorer settop is NOT AUTHORIZED for use. Please call: (800) 266-22XX."

More serious outages cause business disruptions, which can result in reduced productivity, damage to reputation, breaches in security, and lost revenue. According to network services company MegaPath, the average cost of downtime equates to $212,200 per hour -- a figure that can skyrocket for web- and network-based businesses. In August, the Amazon.com website went down for a period of 30 to 40 minutes, costing the company between $3 and $4 million.

In worst-case scenarios, crippled networks can render emergency services and public safety communications systems useless. The countrywide outage of Canada's Rogers Wireless in October left millions of customers without access to 911, with city officials advising people to use neighbors' landlines or phones at nearby stores in case of an emergency.

No company is immune, no matter how sophisticated its technology. In 2013, some of the largest and most well-known technology companies in the world experienced downtime because of network failures. Companies such as Google, NASA, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and others all reported outages stemming from some problem in the network.

Whether downtime is caused by a faulty piece of hardware, a software bug, a configuration error, or a denial-of-service attack, it causes the same response in customers, employees, users, and the IT professionals responsible for that network: Sheer panic.

So don't sit idly by and wait for the next time a problem brings your network to its knees. Take a gander at the top network outages of 2013. Learn what you can from these companies' misfortunes and try to avoid the same fate.

Photo by Marcelo Graciolli.

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 1:46:23 PM
Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
Curious to know whether readers think their company networks are more secure today than a year ago? Share what your organization has done to prevent outages -- or what steps they should take in 2014.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 3:48:05 PM
Re: Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
@Marilyn well, there's security from outages, but then there is another form of security -- the type that keeps customer credit card and bank information secure. Target had a major breach of security on that end in its stores. Supposedly online transactions were safe, but just the breach on the store end was enough for major headaches and possible lawsuits for the retailer.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 4:19:37 PM
Re: Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
That's a great point about Target Ariella. It's one thing to tune systems so they perform at 99.999 percent. But the hackers and cybercriminals seem to keep coming at us. We've had a few columns that address the need for IT to take a more offensive more posture agaist.  Check out The State of IT Security: It's Broken and Mobility & Cloud: A Double Whammy For Securing Data.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 4:42:29 PM
Re: Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
Thanks, Marilyn. I'll have to take a look at it!
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 3:12:01 AM
Re: Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
Not much but i can feel the improvement in my company network after we have moved our non-critical and non-productive applications to cloud with increasing IT LAN bandwidth, thank we did not have much critical outage in 2013 apart from a major outage in email services due to bandwidth breakdown.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
12/24/2013 | 9:33:33 AM
Re: Are your networks safer today than one year ago?
Samicksha, it's great to hear that you think your own corporate network has improved. It seems the challenges get far greater every day as cpmplexity, number of devices and threats to security increase. That makes it hard to make any network foolproof. In my opinion, if Google and Amazon are having outages, then it's going to be very difficult for any other organization to not experience the same thing.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 2:28:11 PM
BlackOuts
Let's hope these outages spur those who own and operate these -- and similar -- large scale networks to never rest on the laurels of 99.xxx Up time. The nation's economy depends more on more on these networks than ever before.

 
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 10:10:36 AM
Plan B
This is why I like my Plan B – local data.  There are so many advantages to cloud solutions, but only if you can always get there.  From the office you have little issue, from mobile devices, you are influenced by location, load, weather, and where you are in the building.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 10:24:41 AM
Re: Plan B
J-Brandt -- Is your Plan B a local data option as a redundancy to cloud storage. Or are you saying you prefer keeping all data local? 
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 10:28:33 AM
Re: Plan B
A combination of those two - depending on the type of data.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 10:29:48 AM
Re: Plan B
That redundancy makes a lot of sense to me! Thanks.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 3:54:19 PM
Re: Plan B
So, Amazon lost $30-40 million from being down 30-40 minutes? That means every ten minutes, the company makes $10 million. Or, roughly $1 million per minute. Can you imagine the cost that would be incurred if the site went down during the holiday season?

I wonder how many IT pros are on call during this time of year for Amazon. 
aditshar
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aditshar,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/25/2013 | 5:24:28 AM
Re: Plan B
I guess the Dad of worst outage 2013 was Healthcare.gov, wherein It wasn't just a matter of a single downtime incident, it was a series of hard outages and an ongoing soft outage in which the site was barely functional.
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 2:59:38 AM
Re: Plan B
@J_Brandt: I understand your point, but i guess this increase your total IT expense as keeping data local and in the cloud will ask for good money in hand.
Alison Diana
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Alison Diana,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 11:32:02 AM
Nothing Compares to Life
When emergency services go down, we really recognize how invaluable and critical our networks are. Money is, of course, important. In addition to its face value, jobs rest on dollars, yen, pounds, and euros. But whenever 911 or hospitals systems go black, people can actually die. And that cannot be measured on a balance sheet. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 12:42:58 AM
Re: Nothing Compares to Life
Alison, 

". . . whenever 911 or hospitals systems go black, people can actually die. And that cannot be measured on a balance sheet."

True. Unfortunately, it seems like the first worry most people have is about how much companies have lost in a thirty-minute outage. 

An outage in a hospital without a good emergency backup system might be used as a wake up call after they lose some patients for this. Saving money in not having a proper emergency system can be costly in human lives. 

-Susan 
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 1:12:49 PM
No network, no cloud
These are only the bigger network outages, there is plenty of others. Having entire businesses rely on cloud services does not sound like that good of an idea. While cloud services have merit, we enjoy a badly maintained infrastructure that lags behind compared to the networks available in Europe while paying way more for service. Maybe priorities need shift from quarterly numbers to long term gain, but I doubt that will ever happen.
tsangk
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tsangk,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 9:59:43 AM
Solution to network outages
Hi everyone,

Kevin Tsang here with SevOne. With the examples you've provided, it is clear that almost every industry is susceptible to network outages. Therefore I'd like to introduce a unique solution to this dilemma that would allow for all types of businesses to avoid the detriments of network downtime.

We here at SevOne provide the world's fastest, most scalable performance monitoring platform. An all-in-one solution, SevOne detects and alerts on network events before they impact businesses. SevOne developed a next-generation technology called the SevOne Cluster™ that incorporates the cutting edge principles behind distributed computing to address any scalability concerns. SevOne monitors millions of objects across multiple technologies from a single pane of glass. Customers including the top cable companies, wireless network and managed service providers, and top financial services institutions rely on SevOne to monitor the performance of their critical infrastructure. With our solution, companies will have greater insight into their networks and prevent outages before they even happen.

For anyone interested in downloading our software, check us out here:

https://sevone.com/solutions/network-performance-management
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