Is Your Business Prepared for a Total Internet Failure?

You use it every day. You probably use it just about every hour. Heck, if you’re like us you’re using it every waking minute of the day – maybe you’re even unknowingly doing it in your sleep in some sort of 21st-century version of sleepwalking. Do you know what we’re getting at yet? You’re doing it right now. You’re using the internet, just like you and your business do every single other day.

Internet usage has proliferated so widely and so rapidly since the days of ‘90s dialup that many people don’t even think about it. Virtually everything is connected to the internet: Phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, gaming consoles, cars, ATMs, cash registers, and on and on and on. Whether you’re sending an email, updating your Facebook page, binge-watching a show on Netflix or any of a zillion other options, you’re using the internet nearly all of the time.

Your business, of course, relies heavily on the internet as well. If your business is a website or at least uses one – and in 2014, you darn well better be using a website for your enterprise in some capacity – then you cannot survive without internet access, can you? And what about email? Inter-office messaging? Cloud data services? Customer data? Digital marketing efforts? Skype meetings? Screen-sharing/takeover IT help? We could continue on like this, asking about how you’d do virtually everything else your business does without the internet, but you probably understand what we’re getting at here.

In fact, you’ve likely experienced it at least a few times. Almost everybody suffers through the occasional power outage or internet outage. What happens when your company does? If you’re like most, everyone in your company whips out their smartphones or tablets and does what work they can and/or browses the internet if the power’s out but the internet’s up – all the while wondering just what the heck people did at work decades ago when not everyone had a computer with an internet connection at their desk.

But what if you weren’t just without power? What if you were without internet, and for more than a few minutes? What if it was for more than just a few hours? What if it lasted for days? It might sound crazy, but it could happen. Is your business at all prepared for such a happening? It’s unlikely that it is. While a complete internet failure is probably the top thing that could bring any business to a grinding halt, almost none are ready for it, reports Computer Weekly.

Going Offline

Speaking with that publication, consultancy firm KPMG’s Stephen Bonner floated the idea of a complete internet meltdown happening at some point within the next five years. The cause could be the number of internet nodes in existence far outstripping original expectations.

“In that time frame, I predict we will see a major internet outage that could last two to three days,” he said. That’s a lot of time for your employees to be sending emails over their smartphones in between time spent checking their Twitter feeds and watching cat videos on YouTube. A long time.

Bonner said he’s not just blowing smoke, either. He has a background working for internet service providers and understands how the whole system works better than most. And although a technical problem could bring it all crashing down, he believes it’s more likely that such an event would be caused by a human error. A mistake.

“Although there are vulnerabilities in the internet that malicious actors could exploit to cause a total outage, nobody would benefit, therefore it is unlikely to be the result of a deliberate act,” he noted.

Bonner explained that it could happen and is most likely to happen as a result of malware inadvertently taking down every single router in the world or “finger trouble” leading to flowing, self-propagating failure. The result of such a failure would be the corruption of every routing table or domain name server. Everywhere.

That’s one big mistake. One big mistake that if you’re not ready for, you’d be set to lose one big chunk of money and employee production over. So why aren’t most organizations ready for what could potentially be the biggest business catastrophe imaginable?

Lack of Precedent

Think long and hard for a second back to the last time when this happened. Do you remember? Of course you don’t – it hasn’t ever happened. The main reason why businesses aren’t ready for the internet to be completely wiped out for days at a time is because it hasn’t yet occurred.

On the other hand, you likely have, at minimum, one backup electrical supply in place. And you have this despite the fact that the energy industry is a highly regulated, well-managed one. Reliable power supplies are contract-supported in most cases. Still, you’re prepared for the worst on that front.

“But when it comes to the internet, which has no clear oversight or governance, organizations have no backup plan and nobody seems to be worrying about a major internet outage,” Bonner said.

Smart businesses have a business continuity plan in place – one that wasn’t established on the back of poor disaster recovery testing choices, hopefully. That’s great if you have your own meticulously tested plan in place, but does yours assume you’ll somehow have access to the internet? Most do; most assume the internet cannot possibly fail and that Google will be able to come through with a solution. The internet, however, is not infallible.

How to Prepare

If the internet were to come crashing down for an extended period of time, the businesses that have taken the time to download everything they could need to help them recover from a crash will be the ones in the best shape. It’s great to have your data, website and/or applications in the cloud, but if you’re not backing up everything that is mission-critical, you’re making a mistake.

“Organizations need to take an afternoon for a brainstorming session on all the things they would need if the internet were to fail for any significant amount of time,” said Bonner. “They then need to ensure that they have these things put aside somewhere safely so that they have everything they need to carry should an internet failure occur.”

One last bit of advice: screen captures. Take screen grabs of images of your key computer systems in order to help you restore them without the use of the internet. Doing so is incredibly easy, and if the internet goes out, you’ll be thankful that you did.

Image Source: X Matters

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