In the data center world, it’s taken for granted that system downtime can create serious problems for any organization. With so many companies depending upon their networks to keep operations up and running, there’s no shortage of real-world examples of what happens when things go wrong.
Here are five major companies that suffered high profile outages over the last several years, which should serve as a reminder that even the largest businesses shouldn’t take their data infrastructure for granted.
Amazon’s Prime Day promotion is a major event for anyone looking to find great deals online, which today means just about everyone. But on July 16, 2018, eager shoppers hoping to find plenty of items they never knew they wanted were instead greeted with error pages featuring cute and cuddly dogs or became stuck in a never ending loop between the Amazon homepage and a broken “Deals” page.
Later reports revealed that the problems were the result of not having enough servers to handle the surge in traffic. The outage didn’t affect all users, but several markets were unable to utilize the site for several hours. The server strain also seemed to impact other Amazon services, with customers reporting problems with the Alexa voice-operated assistant and the Twitch streaming platform. Amazon addressed the issue in the short term by manually adding servers, launching a scaled-down version of its homepage, and blocking some international traffic.
While 2018’s Prime Day still proved to be the biggest shopping day in the company’s history, with over one million products sold, it’s likely the numbers would have been even bigger had everyone been able to access the site.
A virtual workplace chat and collaboration platform, Slack is used by more than eight million people around the world, with over 500,000 organizations and 65 Fortune 500 companies utilizing the service to facilitate better communication across business operations. For organizations with remote employees and departments located in different countries, Slack is an invaluable tool that allows them to communicate as if they were all located in the same physical office.
While Slack has had a number of outages over the years, one of the more prominent occurred on June 27, 2018, when the service was intermittently down for the better part of four hours. While certainly inconvenient for many organizations that depend on fast communication, the short term outage may well have led to a curious boost in productivity. Even so, the event caused quite an uproar given it occurred near the beginning of the business day. The cause of the outage seemed to have been the result of a bug that resulted in an unexpected spike in network activity.
One of the more infamous service outages of recent years occurred in 2011 when Sony took its PlayStation Network offline on April 20 in the wake of a cyberattack that compromised the personally identifiable information (PIN) of the service’s 77 million users. The outage lasted for 23 days while Sony worked to rebuild its cybersecurity infrastructure. Best estimates put the total losses resulting from the attack as high as $250 million.
In addition to the compromised PIN, Sony was also battered by a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks during the hack. The attack revealed the dangers large multinational corporations with multiple independent divisions face in establishing unified cybersecurity procedures to protect their diverse business operations. While Sony took a number of steps to address these problems, including establishing a new data center to provide enhanced security, the company would be in the news again in 2014 after Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered another cyberattack that exposed confidential data.
As the oldest airline still operating in the United States, Delta Air Lines is also one of the largest, running more than 5,400 flights every day and serving more than 120 million passengers each year. Given the immense logistical complexity of keeping so many planes in the air, any disruption to an airline’s network could cause tremendous challenges.
Delta found this out first hand when an electrical equipment failure on August 8, 2016 caused an outage at one of its Atlanta data centers. Although the outage lasted only about five hours, the consequences had a much more long term impact. Around 2,000 flights were grounded over the course of next three days, and the incident cost the company an estimated $150 million.
The outage demonstrated how some industries are particularly vulnerable to data center failures. Southwest Airlines suffered a similar outage in July of 2016, which cost at least $177 million in terms of lost revenue. A British Airways data center went offline due to human error on May 27, 2017, forcing the cancellation of over 400 flights and costing the airline about $112 million.
It’s one thing for a data center outage to affect a single company’s operations, but when that outage affects companies that provide critical B2B services, the consequences can have unexpected trickle down effects that are devastating for organizations operating with little margin for error. For companies that rely upon cloud services, a provider outage can bring their operations screeching to a halt.
This type of nightmare scenario played out in Northern Europe on June 20, 2018 when a Microsoft data center in Dublin, Ireland suffered an eleven hour-long outage due to human error. The Dublin data center is one of the major hubs for Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, so the outage left many of its customers unable to access business critical data and operations for the duration of the outage. Fortunately, the data center’s problems started around the end of business hours on a Tuesday and were mostly addressed by the start of business on Wednesday, which helped to minimize the consequences.
With so many businesses depending upon reliable network infrastructure to conduct their operations, it’s more important than ever for them to find a reliable data center partner. Even a few minutes of downtime each year can have a harmful impact in terms of lost revenue, productivity, and brand reputation. For organizations looking to colocate their IT infrastructure, it pays to take the time and effort to conduct extensive research and find a facility with a long track record of uptime reliability, top notch security, and skilled technicians on site to address potential issues.
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