Down but not out: are you prepared for Internet service outages?

Dave Sobel

It was a rough day recently for BT – the UK’s leading telecoms provider. As the country’s Guardian newspaper stated, there was a rather sizeable outage across the UK, with both phone and Internet systems taken offline.

Although we don’t see headlines like this too often, outages of connectivity and services are more frequent than you might think. Sites like downdetector.com highlight issues across North America, with the ‘.co.uk’ providing the same for the UK. While writing this blog, according to the site, all of the major US telecoms companies such as Cox, Verizon, and Comcast, have outages on some portion of their networks, just as BT did. While it might feel infrequent, Internet service outages happen far more often than we like to acknowledge.

All infrastructures face disruption…

This isn’t to say that there’s a systemic failure. Just as electricity companies have periodic outages; and just as the water system has periodic issues; and just as roads will be damaged and need to be repaired; there will always be some level of disruption in any infrastructure.

The problem is that Internet connectivity has become as critical as power and water in terms of infrastructure dependency. Loss of connectivity can cause significant loss of productivity in a business; and the reality is that outages do happen more than often with the other major services. So, it’s important that businesses have a contingency in mind.

The key for an organization is planning. The first step is ensuring that the organization’s data will not be compromised in the event of connectivity loss. Solid backups are always a foundation to any strategy, so ensuring data is protected is key. It is also possible to cost-effectively create redundant systems to ensure no loss of productivity.

Email is the primary system to protect

Email is the key productivity tool to ensure you have managed during an outage, so that you can keep in touch with customers, employees, and suppliers. With most systems in the cloud, a user with connectivity issues simply needs to relocate to ensure continual work capabilities.

With the possibility of outage on the provider’s side, such as outages with Office 365 or Google Mail, an additional layer of protection is needed. Adding a cloud-based email security solution that includes a continuity capability allows an organization to continue to work even if the primary mail system is offline. When restored, email will flow again, and productivity will not have stopped.

Many small businesses can leverage a simple disaster recovery plan by just relocating staff.   Wifi hotspots abound, and in the event of an outage, staff can reconnect remotely or from home, access mail and business systems, and then return when connectivity is restored. With the addition of mail archiving and redundancy, a business can be prepared for the inevitable Internet outage; ensuring that while their systems maybe down they are not out of business.