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WhatsApp Down: Why are tech giants failing to stay online 24/7?

Even the biggest companies, with the best IT systems, can suffer outages.

By Ellie Burns

WhatsApp has become the latest tech giant kicked offline in a global outage, with some of its 1.2 billion users unable to use the messaging service for several hours.

The company was quick to issue a statement about how they were working to fix the issue – a standard statement seen all the more regularly in recent times. Spotify and Instagram are among the social media firms who have sparked outrage online following similar outages, while earlier this year Amazon blamed human error for a mass outage which even took CBR offline.

Customers turn to these well known brands with certain levels of expectation – expectations which are not being met by companies with high-class IT systems and almost limitless resources.

“Web-based businesses have an implicit – or, in many cases, explicit – obligation to be available 24.7.365, while their digital-savvy consumers increasingly demand constant access to their services,” said Richard Agnew from Veeam.

READ MORE: Microsoft down AGAIN: cloud outage pulls Outlook, Xbox and Skype offline

“These real-time consumer apps in particular power countless businesses that rely on their digital platforms to deliver ad views and content to customers, and this sets the expectation of a service that will be always-on.”

Mr Agnew stressed the cost of such outages even if, like WhatsApp, the outage only lasted several hours. According to Veeam’s Availability Report, unplanned outages cost UK businesses an average of £17.9m per year.

“This huge cost comes as nine in ten UK companies (90%) admitted to suffering an ‘Availability Gap’ between the level of service expected and what IT can actually deliver. It’s therefore clear that businesses are not realising the need to improve their data handling,” Mr Agnew said. “Our findings are consistent with surveys from years past, in that nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) remain unable to protect their data frequently enough to ensure that their business units’ expectations against data loss are met.”

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Amazon S3 outageCompanies must know that the financial and reputational damage that can be inflicted by any sort of outage, yet these huge companies are still unable to stay online. However, it must be noted that everything has the potential to break, with Mr Agnew pointing to the fact that  “anything that is software driven and underpinned by application logic has the potential to break and suffer downtime.”

“Instagram, WhatsApp and Spotify rely on highly scalable and resilient microservices to deliver their immediate services to customers, but these are not downtime proof. Indeed, these outages prove that even best-in-class IT systems run by the world’s biggest companies can suffer problems.”

What is important is the process put in place to deal with downtime, with the Veeam VP NW EMEA urging companies of all sizes to “have an availability, protection and recoverability plan in place that remains separate to inbuilt logic.”

“In today’s world, where consumers are enraged by downtime – as proved by the immediate complaints via Twitter – reputations are made or broken by ensuring services remain available around the clock.”

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