Safeguarding Business Continuity 

The Crucial Role of Redundant Connections 

– Michael Fowler 

Last month, more than 10 million Australians—nearly half the population—were left without mobile and internet service after a network failure at Optus, the country’s second-largest telecommunications provider. The outage caused transport delays, cut hospital phone lines, and shut down payment systems for almost 12 hours, effectively paralyzing thousands of businesses. Experts initially speculated that a cyber-attack had caused the blackout; ultimately, a network firmware patch was blamed for taking down the network. Optus had to physically dispatch technicians to remote parts of the country to reverse the patch installation. 

The implications of this outage were profound for the day-to-day operations of companies solely reliant on Optus for telecommunications service, and it raises questions about the fragility of Australia’s core infrastructure. Productivity plummeted as employees lost the ability to share documents, communicate through email, and work together in real time. 

In September, the global business community faced substantial disruption as Google Workspace—a comprehensive suite of productivity tools and collaborative services—experienced a widespread service failure. The outage lasted roughly 12 hours and was ultimately tracked to technical issues within Google’s infrastructure. During this period, users across the globe encountered difficulties accessing essential services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs, hampering routine communication and collaboration efforts. 

The loss of these services underscored the vulnerability of single-sourcing access to internet-based data, prompting organizations to reevaluate their dependency on single providers and consider diversifying their digital infrastructures to mitigate such risks. 

The Risks of Single-Connection Dependency 

Today’s interconnected businesses operate in a global marketplace where downtime can translate into lost revenue, damage to reputation, and disrupted operations. Depending on a single ISP for internet access creates a single point of failure, leaving the business vulnerable to network outages, hardware failures, and cyberattacks. 

There are almost as many causes for service disruption as elements in the telecom stream, from coding errors to vulcanism on the sea floor. Here are a few of the more dramatic recent disruptions to internet-based data and services: 

Comcast Outage 

In 2017, Comcast, one of the largest ISPs in the United States, experienced a widespread outage of its internet service, Xfinity, that affected businesses and residential users nationwide. The blackout—caused by a minor configuration error—left users without internet access for several hours. Companies relying solely on Comcast Xfinity for their connectivity faced wide-ranging disruptions in their day-to-day online operations, highlighting the vulnerabilities of a single-connection arrangement. 

Level 3 Communications Outage 

Level 3 Communications, a major global telecommunications company, suffered a significant outage in 2016 when one of its technicians left a field blank on an electronic form. The resulting shutdown led to widespread disruptions of popular websites and online platforms. The outage also affected approximately 29.4 million VoIP users and about 2.3 million wireless users; the total tally of calls that failed to go through exceeded 111 million, according to a later investigation by the FCC. The nationwide outage lasted nearly an hour and a half, during which businesses relying on Level 3 faced significant potential service disruptions and financial losses. 

Dyn DNS Cyberattack 

On October 21, 2016, three consecutive, massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeted Dyn, a company that controls much of the internet’s domain name system (DNS) infrastructure. The attacks, executed using botnets, brought down much of America’s internet, affecting popular sites and services such as Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, and Netflix. Businesses relying on Dyn for DNS services found their online presence crippled during the attack. This incident highlighted the vulnerability of depending on a single DNS provider for internet connectivity. 

Mitigating the Risks: The Role of Redundancy 

So, how do businesses keep their operations running smoothly in the face of unexpected events? The answer lies in redundancy. A redundant internet connection serves as a backup in case of primary connection failure. Businesses can achieve redundant internet connectivity through various methods, including having multiple internet service providers (ISPs) and using a cellular connection as backup. Redundancy helps mitigate the risks associated with single points of failure and enhances business continuity. Among the advantages of redundant internet access are: 

High Availability: 

Redundant connections provide high availability by ensuring that a secondary link can seamlessly take over during an outage of the primary ISP. Redundancy minimizes downtime and allows business operations to continue uninterrupted. 

Load Balancing: 

Redundant connections allow load balancing and distribute network traffic across multiple connections. Load balancing enhances performance and prevents congestion, reducing the likelihood of slowdowns or service interruptions. 

Diverse Pathways: 

Utilizing multiple ISPs or diverse network paths offers protection against localized outages or infrastructure failures. If a specific geographic area or network segment experiences issues, redundant connections can provide alternative routes to maintain connectivity. 

Resilience Against Cyberattacks: 

Redundant connections can offer protection against cyberattacks by isolating and mitigating the impact of an attack on one connection. In the event of a DDoS attack targeting one ISP, the redundant connection can help absorb the malicious traffic and keep essential services running. 

The importance of having redundant internet access connections cannot be overstated in today’s digitally driven business landscape. The risks of relying on a single ISP are evident from real-world examples of outages and cyberattacks. Redundancy provides high availability and resilience against failures and safeguards businesses against the potentially devastating consequences of downtime. As the digital landscape evolves, these measures will become increasingly essential for businesses to thrive in an interconnected and dynamic environment.