Major outages prove no system is infallible

cloud service outages

The past two weeks have seen a number of outages hit major companies across the globe. Whist the exact causes are not yet known, it seems that faulty updates and ransomware may have been responsible.

Barclays

Monday 28th of September was payday for thousands of people in the UK and many companies were actually due to run their payroll on that date. When Barclays online banking service went down for a considerable period of the day it was more than just inconvenient.
Many users reported not being able to login to view transactions or pay their bills. It is still not clear what caused the issues and they seem to have been resolved by the end of the day, but customers were still unhappy about the lack of updates including a lack of activity on Barclay’s Twitter account during the outage.
One customer Tweeted: “Can’t log in to my account using Pin Sentry. Error code 80101. Can’t find on the internet what this means. Been on the phone to the number stated for half an hour. Still can’t get in.”
Another said: “Anyone else having major problems logging onto Barclays online this morning? Can’t get any answers from Barclays themselves & their website says everything is fine.”

Microsoft

The 28th September also saw a service outage that caused issues for users of Outlook.com and its associated services including Microsoft Teams, and OneDrive.
According to Microsoft, the outage was not down to malicious activity but due to a “recent change”. Traffic was temporarily re-routed to an “alternative infrastructure” before the issue was fixed. Normal service was restored approximately 8 hours later.

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Universal Health Services

Universal Health Services is one of the largest hospital operators in the USA. On Monday, its internal network was taken offline following what was described as an “IT security issue”. The organisation said it was using “established back-up processes” to recover and one expert said they believed it could have been a ransomware attack. UHS said that no confidential data appeared to have been compromised.
All three examples above took place on just one day, and it highlights the fact that even big players like Microsoft cannot predict or prevent issues 100% of the time.

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Top causes of website and network service outages

Server overloads
This can occur if there is a significant spike of visitors to your own website or to a site that you share a server with (if you use shared hosting). This can affect your speed and functionality or take the site offline entirely.
DDoS attacks
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is where cybercriminals attempt to take a site down by flooding the servers with a rapid torrent of requests. This is one of the most common forms of cyberattack.
Hardware and software issues
Power failures remain the most common reason for website outages, but other hardware failures are also common. This is most likely when maintenance has not been carried out routinely. Lack of maintenance also lies behind most software failures: older versions are more liable to suffer a conflict or have security flaws that can be exploited to take down your site.
Human error
According to research, over a third of outages can be traced to human errors, including;
– Accidentally unplugging a cable when working near a server
– Improper handling of servers
– Coding carelessness leading to improper code executions
Host updates
When your hosting company needs to update their systems they often need to take websites or other services offline to complete it.
Other causes
Less common but even more devastating are natural disasters like floods, fires and hurricanes.

Ways to protect yourself from outages

These days, cloud systems and internet connections are far more reliable than they have ever been. This is often why migrating systems from traditional on-premise servers to the cloud is a popular decision for businesses.
Cloud based systems are not completely infallible as this article shows above. It is important to remember though that these business invest heavily in their cloud infrastructure to deal with issues such as outages and cyber attack. Most businesses who need these services could ill afford to replicate the same type of resilient infrastructure and monitoring capabilities on their own without a huge capital expenditure.

Some tips for minimising the impact of outages:

– Choose a reliable cloud service provider and look at their track history of outages.
– Backup your data regularly (ideally to the Cloud)
– Ensure you have up-to-date security software installed to minimise local outages due to viruses/malware
– Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
– Employ a website monitoring service

If your business hasn’t yet explored the full potential of moving your servers and data to the cloud or only has partially implemented cloud solutions, then give Cloudworks a call. We are specialists in cloud technologies, cyber-security and support. In addition, we continuously monitor our clients IT cloud infrastructure to ensure they are secure and protected against the latest threats. Give us a call to find out more and we will find the best strategy and solution to fit your business.

Call Cloudworks on 0115 824 8244 or email info@cloudworks.co.uk