Websites Go Dark: What It Means for Disaster Recovery

A recent website outage in early June is highlighting the importance of data backups and recovery efforts for businesses around the globe. For about an hour, Fastly, a major content delivery network, reported a widespread failure that led to several major websites “going dark,” including CNN, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

Fastly also delivers content for a variety of services, including Twitch, Pinterest, HBO Max, Hulu, and more.

The cloud service provider lost service on Tuesday morning. It worked fast to bring its systems back online and had them restored by 7 am EST, which meant that those services were not offline at times that affected the majority of the American population. Downtime, however, impacted countries around the world, including Europe, Asia, and South Africa, which may have experienced that blackout during a much less convenient period.

According to Fastly, the delay occurred as a result of a service configuration that led to significant problems around the world. In essence, a bad software update caused the network to crash down–and led to impacts felt around the world. The company quickly disabled the configuration to get things up and running again. The Fastly breakdown, however, serves to underscore the challenges faced by a global society reliant on the internet to communicate, engage in leisure activities, and keep running as smoothly as possible.

What Does the Websites Going Dark Mean for Your Business?

Around the world, popular websites, from Amazon and Target to the UK government website, suffered from the Fastly outage. Brief as it was, the outage had the potential to cause substantial disruptions for a variety of businesses–including businesses that may not have realized how reliant their website was on the platform. Fastly is one piece of a greater internet puzzle: it helps improve load times and smooth out traffic overloads that can cause serious problems for websites. You might not even realize that you use Fastly–or other programs like it–as part of your website’s overall functionality. However, in the event of a disaster that brings down one piece of the puzzle, you may find your connectivity and resources tumbling down–not to mention your ability to provide the service your customers expect.

Like other recent cyberattacks and cyber challenges that have impacted American businesses, the Fastly disruption serves to highlight some needs that all businesses may have.

1. You need a robust data backup system that is not reliant on a single physical location or a single virtual service or platform.

The internet is made up of a number of interconnected pieces that help everything function together smoothly. Fastly, for example, is a layer of support between internet companies and the customers who rely on those platforms. Your business may use a variety of services and options, from a cloud service provider to the payment systems that allow customers to easily make payments online. While all of those platforms are valuable, if your business functionality relies on a single provider, then if that provider goes down, your business will, too.

In order to maintain your ability to continue business operations even in the midst of a disaster, you need a data backup solution that is not reliant on a single provider–especially not the same provider that you use to manage your daily operations. Having redundant backups can help bring your business back up even in the aftermath of serious challenges.

2. Your disaster recovery plan needs contingencies and redundancies. 

Many businesses don’t even have a disaster recovery plan. Others may have disaster recovery plans that rely on specific, often virtual, elements to stay online and running smoothly even in the midst of a disaster.

An effective disaster recovery plan, however, has contingencies and redundancies. In the midst of the Fastly disaster, for example, some companies were able to bypass the outage by switching content delivery networks or relying more heavily on other providers until the platform came fully back online. If your business is reliant on a single platform, then if that platform goes down, your business will go down along with it. Your disaster recovery plan needs to address those challenges.

Of critical note, your disaster recovery plan must contain virtual contingencies as well as physical contingencies. While you need to keep your business functioning even in light of a physical disaster, including damage to your building or a natural disaster that prevents employees from getting to work, you must also work to ensure that your business keeps running smoothly in light of virtual disasters. What will you do if a ransomware attack locks down your data? (Hint: data backups that are separate from your normal network and data storage can help you restore basic functionality while you work to remediate the damage–or even allow you to keep running with little or no disruption to your customer service. How will you handle a disruption that shuts down your website? Do you have a strategy in place for helping you communicate with your customers in the event of an emergency, so you can keep them informed about the disaster and the measures you’re taking to remediate it as quickly as possible?

Disruptions like the Fastly problem help call attention to a growing problem around the world: the full extent of our reliance on technology in general, and the internet in particular, to help connect businesses and private customers alike. Those disruptions can feel incredibly disconcerting–especially when you consider the profitability that you could lose during even an hour of downtime.

Creating a disaster response plan that will help you address those challenges is more critical for your business than ever before. Virtual IT can help. We will work with you to help establish the best disaster recovery plan for your business based on the tools and platforms you already rely on, your budget, and the functionality you need to help maintain the high standard of service your customers expect. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals.

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