L.A. Blackout Fells More Nets Than Hurricane Katrina - InformationWeek

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9/13/2005
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L.A. Blackout Fells More Nets Than Hurricane Katrina

Katrina and the outage in Los Angeles prove that American businesses still haven't decided how vital constant connectivity is to business continuity.

While the brief blackout in Los Angeles Monday was caused by an errant worker snipping wires, not Mother Nature and a wall of water, the incident actually brought down more Internet networks than failed during Hurricane Katrina, a Web monitoring firm said Tuesday.

"Los Angeles is a much more network-dense place than the Gulf Coast," said Todd Underwood, the director of operations for Renesys, a Manchester, New Hampshire-based firm that monitors Internet routing traffic. "Up to 301 networks were outaged during the [power blackout] event." That was substantially more than went down during the Hurricane Katrina storm that hit Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on August 29.

"The outages were contained locally," said Underwood, "and for the most part, redundant power structures worked. There were a couple facilities where significant networks failed, however. Backup power infrastructure seldom gets a full workup, so there are always some that fail [to kick in]."

None of the long-haul lines that connect Los Angeles to the rest of the Internet, and direct traffic through the city from other parts of the western U.S. or the Pacific Rim, were affected by the power blackout.

The outages were brief; the power in Los Angeles was out for approximately 90 to 120 minutes, depending on the area of city affected, and most networks were back up shortly after power was restored. But even though the length of the blackout didn't compare to the long-term interruptions some Louisiana networks will experience, Underwood called them "very similar, structurally."

What both Katrina and the outage in Los Angeles prove is that American businesses still haven't decided how important the Internet is to them, and how vital constant connectivity is to business continuity.

"If you call up a businessman and ask 'how important is the Internet?' he'll say, "we gotta have it," but that's not the same as dedicating the money for continuity," said Underwood. "Business continuity services like those from IBM or Sun are very expensive, and targeted at Fortune 500 and 1000 firm. A bank in Louisiana, for instance, would probably decide it can't afford the protection.

"This is part of the longer conversation that businesses need to have as they move toward the long, steady path toward deciding that the Internet is business critical," Underwood said.

Disaster preparation of all sorts, not just remaining online, is apparently a low priority for many American businesses, according to a survey released Tuesday by AT&T. By that poll's numbers, almost a third of U.S. businesses lack continuity plans, and nearly 40 percent admitted that continuity planning wasn't a priority.

"So on that level, I'm not that surprised by the number of networks that failed in L.A.," said Underwood.

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