It would make for a better story if I was writing this from my laptop while huddled up at a coffee shop in the next town over because my office was without power, but so far we are fortunate enough to still have lights, AC and most importantly, internet access. But we, and everyone else, may not be so fortunate, as the heatwave will likely continue through the later part of this week. Everyone is trying to cram five days (or more!) of work into a four-day week, which means power consumption won’t drop off just because state officials are asking us to “flex”. We already run our AC at 78, but when it’s 106 outside and your work requires lots of electrical things, flexing can only go so far.
What happens when the lights go out
A lot of our clients have added UPS’s (aka battery backups) to their workstations at the office, and some have even gone so far as to add them to their home office setups as well. Some of you may even have backup generators, power walls and solar panels at home. This will help keep your food from going bad and provide some safety and convenience, but if you are experiencing a full blackout, all that power might not bring your internet back if the local infrastructure is also de-energized. So Cal’s rolling blackouts may not de-energize infrastructure because of how crippling it is for critical services like street traffic, emergency services communications, etc, but depending on what they view as critical, residential internet may end up very low on their list. In an emergency situation, like the recent wildfires, entire areas may be de-energized for safety, or even destroyed, resulting in a complete power and internet blackout. If you are a remote worker, you may want to make plans for how you might work if you have no power or internet where you work, and whether you have the technical capability to work elsewhere. On top of this, it’s probably also very important to know what critical things you use daily that require internet or cellular network access, whether it be staying in touch with loved ones, knowing critical phone or account numbers, or even addresses of safe places or friends’ houses and how to get there. When you sit down and really think about how much we rely on the internet for everything we do – can you function without it? Even if your phone has plenty of battery, is it as useful with no cell signal? Or is it just a very expensive but poor flashlight at that point?
Image by Boyan Chen from Pixabay
According to the meteorologists (and just about every media outlet) we are in for a very wet Winter. Depending on where you live and work, this may just mean miserable traffic, or it might mean flooding, mudslides and worse. One thing we can always count on when it rains in Southern California is less reliable internet connectivity. On its best day SoCal is ill-prepared for any sort of weather other than the mild temperate climate we normally enjoy, and severe weather invariably impacts all of the major ISPs in the area. I can say without a doubt that while every single ISP labors unceasingly to improve the reliability and speed of their networks, but they all rely on physical infrastructure that is sometimes (oftentimes) outside of their direct control. Most of that is copper wire or optical fiber that is distributed through poles, buried cable lines, and subterranean tunnels, all of which are subject to the forces of nature. To top it all off, all of the internet traffic in the world passes through an absurdly small number of chokepoints, including one in Downtown LA that, last year, was taken out temporarily by a car crashing into the building lobby where it’s located. And it wasn’t even raining that day. Not convinced? Northern California experienced multiple widespread outages recently due to malicious parties physically cutting subterranean fiber lines that would seem to be too easy to access.
What this means for you:
Hopefully you have built a business sustainable enough to withstand an internet outage of an hour or two, but what if that outage were to last an entire day, or, even worse, multiple days? Most of my clients are savvy enough to know how to get work done from other locations, and many of them use cellular broadband on a regular basis, but what if your entire company had to figure out how to work from another location because the internet was down? Even worse, what if your building was flooded or rendered uninhabitable/unreachable because of the weather? While it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive guide on what to do in these types of situations, here is are a few questions that should help you start planning for that inevitable rainy day we will all face at some point:
- Who provides your internet service? Do you have their contact information handy some place other than your office?
- Who provides your phone service? Is it tied to your internet service? What happens to inbound calls when your phones are offline?
- Who hosts your email? Is it provided by a server in your office? What would happen if your customers/clients could not reach you via phone or email for any length of time?
- Do the primary operations of your business rely on the internet in some form or other? e.g. point of sale systems, call centers, web servers, etc. How much revenue might be lost if you were “offline” for a day? A week?
- Do you have a way of communicating with your co-workers or employees if the main office is “offline”? What about your vendors, clients and customers?
A sustainable and successful business must be able to operate in adverse conditions, and most importantly, not have the internet be a critical failure point. We are still a ways away from a highly reliable information superhighway, so make sure you have a rainy day plan ready.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yesterday, the internet experienced a moment of apocalypse angst when Gmail users around the world (including C2) experienced a variety of issues getting email. Lasting roughly 40 minutes, users experienced complete outages, slowness and, if they were using Chrome with browser syncing enabled, outright application crashes. It turns out, rather than being able to blame ancient prophecies, Google fingered one of their own as the root source of the problem.
What this means for you:
Cloud nay-sayers may have had a brief moment in the sun while Gmail was on the ropes, but the fact remains that it’s still a very reliable service. Several lessons may be learned from the experience, all of them common sense:
- If your critical business practices rely on a free email service being available all the time, everywhere, you may want to re-evaluate those practices.
- When making adjustments to your business infrastructure, always double-check your work, and make sure you have a backup of your data.
- When technology fails, 9 times out of 10, a human is behind the failure.
Numerous sources are reporting that web services provider GoDaddy.com is currently suffering from a severe, widespread outage of its DNS and webhosting services, crippling thousands of its customers’ websites. GoDaddy’s website and phone support are also unavailable. Though GoDaddy is not commenting on the reason for the outage, responsibility for the outage is being claimed by hacker “Own3r” who is allegedly the Security Leader of the infamous hacktivist group “Anonymous“.
#tangodown godaddy.com by @anonymousown3r
— Anonymous Own3r (@AnonymousOwn3r) September 10, 2012
What this means to you:
GoDaddy is one of the world’s largest domain registrars, and by default, also one of the largest DNS providers as well. The easiest way to explain DNS is to liken it to a directory that matches the domain name (e.g. “c2techs.net”) with that website’s actual IP address (eg. “126.96.36.199”). Whenever you type a domain name into your browser, you are actually reaching out to that domain’s “name server” (hence “DNS”) so that your browser knows where to find the webserver that serves pages for that particular domain name.
Even if your site isn’t hosted by GoDaddy, if the above attack has taken GoDaddy’s DNS servers offline, your site is still unreachable unless the browser (or the human behind it) knows the IP address of your domain name and uses that instead.
What can you do about it:
While their service is down, not a whole lot. Once they come back online, you can transfer any GoDaddy services to any number of other providers. I use Hover.com and have been very happy with their simple and low-key approach. If you’ve registered domains with GoDaddy, then you are more than capable of handling the transfer process, especially if you start the transfer from Hover.com, but there are a few gotchas here and there that may complicate the process. Website transfers are a bit more complex, and unless you are an accomplished website administrator, I’d suggest you contact us for help. C2 Technology provides a full complement of web services including domain registration, website design and hosting.