You’re kicking back and catching up on your favourite Netflix TV program while doing some online (window) shopping on your mobile phone. Suddenly Netflix stops streaming and your coveted item strangely can’t be added to your online merchant’s web cart. Everything was working just a minute ago! You saunter over to your modem & router, hoping a simple switch on & off will solve the issue. You do exactly that – all the lights on your modem are fired up and seem to be working fine but the internet still does not work? In this 21st century where social media can function as both a tool or weapon, you quickly understand that this problem is not confined within the walls of your home. It happens to be a nationwide issue – a nationwide internet outage. As annoyed or lost as you are, you feel a slight relief as you are not in this alone.
An internet outage can last anywhere from a few minutes to day. Needless to say, the longer the downtime, the more unhappy customers of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) will get. So what or who exactly are the culprits of such an outage causing widespread grief?
1. Software Bug – Routing Protocol
Routers use the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to send information on the right path and receive information at an assigned destination. An ISP could have been updating their software implements their BGP. This software update might have had a bug, which is enough to cause a major outage.
2. Human Error – Routing Protocol
Another reason for a nationwide outage could be due to operator induced errors. To err is human. But if such a mistake with massive consequences is made, it’ll likely cost you your job. Configuring routers for a software update is a complicated job and network engineers may have made a mistake which can also cause a nationwide outage.
3. Vandalism – Physical Fibre Cuts
Vandalism isn’t just defined by graffiti on street walls but can also include destroying of physical property, such as underground cables. This can be done by any individual motivated by various reasons – boredom, attention. To cripple a nation’s internet, one just has to locate the fibre cables an ISP runs on and cut or damage them. This alone would cause a regional outage and may be hard to mediate the problem as it can be hard to locate the exact location of damaged wires.
4. Hardware Failure
Machines themselves also may have a part to play in the occurrence of an outage. Hardware-related network issues can arise from – line card failure, faulty fibre transceiver module or even an unexplained router failure. This can make it quite difficult to understand what precisely happened.
Frankly, we as end users are unable to resolve a large scale outage. Troubleshooting and repairing of infrastructure or operations have to be done from an ISP’s end. In this new age of technology where almost all of us are wired up and plugged in, a short disruption of internet services can leave us really lost and angry and we get it. No one likes to get cut off from what feels like your entire world. Let’s take a breather, and maybe head outside, do the tings we used to do before we became so reliant on the internet. Spend some time with family, get back to your neglected hobbies and maybe even clock some time in the gym.