Code Worldwide

The internet too big to fail?

Ed Freed

Ed Freed

Chief Operating Officer

Google went down on Friday (16th August). For up to five minutes, all major Google services went offline completely.


(The pink dot denotes a service “outage”)

There have been some astounding numbers reported in conjunction with this outage.During the outage there was a 40% drop in global internet traffic as a result.

Let’s just think about that. The total volume of internet activity almost halved. Almost half the internet effectively became unavailable during that period, as it now relies directly or indirectly on Google infrastructure in some way.

A couple of things struck me about this:

·         The level of reliance we have on technology today is huge, but most people have no idea how the technology resources we use are supplied.  A bit like electricity – in theory, you know there are power stations, but where are they and are they working right?

·         If bringing Google down brings down 40% of all internet traffic, it’s basically possible to bring down what most of us use and call the internet. If you ever wondered whether cyberwar is a reality, or something talked up by the media, here is your answer.

·         If a single bank controlled (directly or indirectly) 40% of banking worldwide it would represent a serious risk to world economies and commerce. Same if a power company (directly or indirectly) controlled 40% of all power generation globally. On the internet it would seem, on the surface of an outage like this, to have already happened.

·         How much of business is reliant on the internet?  For direct sales, for advertising, for communication, for document storage.  

·         With the 'internet of things' this reliance on the internet is getting greater every day. Say you have an internet enabled self-driving car in the next decade or so, how does a five minute outage sound then?

·         What if the outage hadn’t been 5 minutes?  What if it had been 3 days?  How resilient are our food and fuel supply chains?

I’m not suggesting it’s time to download survivalist manuals, and stockpile baked beans but, as we marvel at the new technological innovations we see daily it would serve us all well to stop and think for a minute. It’s not magic. it’s still a bunch of computers and cables, and with hardware there is no such thing as infallible.

On a positive note, the next time you receive an RFP asking for 100% uptime of your service, you’ll know just where to point them!