Email outage chaosThe Internet makes life so much easier … except when it doesn’t. Just like a bad cold makes you appreciate breathing through your nose, an Internet outage makes you realize your reliance on email and texts and streaming services. The world got one of its first tastes of Internet dependency on July 17, 1997, when a small human error resulted in a major email outage.

A domain name server (DNS) at Network Solutions became corrupted during its daily middle-of-the-night regeneration of .com and .net domains, making it impossible for computers to match user-entered URLs, such as www.nytimes.com, with IP addresses. This also stopped delivery of email messages sent to addresses using affected domains. The problem was resolved within four hours, but not before thwarting the delivery of millions of messages.

Blame it on human error

Such outages are inevitable, and, while some are the work of the nefarious, most are the result of human errors, such as problems with routing protocols. In March, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, or S3, was down for several hours when an employee entered a command incorrectly, inadvertently taking a large set of servers offline. Amazon had to restart much of its cloud services and perform maintenance checks, taking sites and apps including Venmo and GitHub down. S&P 500 companies lost an estimated $150 million during the outage, and U.S. financial services companies $160 million.

Now, when your favorite website is down, you take to social media to complain. As Google found out in August 2008, a tech company will hear “loud and clear” when its users experience an outage. Now, just as long as Twitter doesn’t go down …

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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