Internet outages overseas prompt business continuity awareness

Major internet disruptions occurring today across the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa after two undersea cables were sliced should prompt global businesses of all sizes to review their business continuity and disaster recovery strategies, experts said today.

The slowdowns and outages continue to affect a number of countries including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. But it is the disruption being felt in India that may have the most impact on U.S.-based firms, which heavily rely on the Asian nation for outsourcing services, experts said.

Indian businesses who contract with upstream providers that provide connectivity in both directions to the United States, not just the direction that was impacted by the severed cables, may be able to stave off a complete disruption – although bandwidth on those channels should also suffer, said Earl Zmijewski, general manager of the Internet Data Division at Renesys, an global internet monitoring firm.

Bu he said businesses should be prepared for these types of incidents. A similar event occurred in December 2006 after an earthquake damaged cables near Taiwan.

“They are going to happen,” Zmijewski told on Thursday. “They are going to happen. Sometimes they're just quicker to recover. Sometimes they're very long. I think people just have to think in terms of what happens if, or not even if, when, I lose critical connectivity.”

Joe Hicks, product manager at F5 Networks, a network appliance provider, told on Thursday that many entities affected, such as Dubai's stock exchange, face challenges because they depend on a limited set of cables.

“They didn't have infrastructure or a piece of equipment that allowed them to detect failures that were not right there in their own facilities,” he said.

Satellites are an alternative to fiber-optic cables, but they often are riddled with latency and cost concerns and are therefore not suitable for organizations conducting real-time financial transactions, Zmijewski said.

Business continuity and disaster recovery comes down to conducting a cost-benefit analysis and determining risk, Hicks said.

Companies intent on spending the money should consider buying multiple egress lines from upstream providers and deploying redundant servers and “fail-over” equipment to protect fiber-optic lines.

Depending on how quickly crews can repair the severed cables, sluggish internet may persist for a few weeks, Zmijewski said.

Rough weather and seas had prevented crews from getting to the scene of the accident on Thursday, according to published reports.

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