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Network Outages

What are Network Outages?

The experience of a network outage can range from brief and mildly disruptive to catastrophic. Research into unplanned outages at 63 data centers by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of an unplanned outage, per minute, is nearly $9,000 per incident.1 Without knowing the extent of what damage a network outage would cost your particular organization, it is wise to plan for the worst. The following lists explore network outage causes, responses, and prevention efforts.

Causes of Outages

There are many different places in your network where an outage can be triggered:

Equipment failure. Equipment that is not properly grounded and protected from surges can leave it vulnerable to frying. Equipment failure can also be causes by overloads and lockups.

Network congestion. When too many people in a certain area are trying to access a network at the same time, the circuit quality may deadlock or deteriorate.

Failed links. When the link between a device and the server is interrupted and cannot connect, perhaps due to an issue such as downed wires, an outage can occur.

Operation error. Incorrect IP addresses, incorrectly configured firewalls, improper wiring, and incorrect internet connection installation are network outage causes due to failures in installation and operation.

Speed fluctuation. Sometimes the lines for the internet provider are not as optimized as they should be, resulting in service disruptions.

Cyberattacks. There are many cyberattack types that target networks such as insider threats, unauthorized access attacks, DDoS attacks, main-in-the-middle attacks, code and SQL injection attacks, and privilege escalation attacks.

Sabotage. Network outages can be caused by vandals cutting cables.

Outage Response

  1. Alert end users that there is a network outage.2
  2. Notify the help desk of an outage so they can respond to user concerns appropriately.
  3. Check the power supply to make sure your network still has a healthy dose of power.
  4. Contact your service providers to ensure the network outage isn’t originating on their end.
  5. Log in to your equipment and examine the error messages.
  6. Often, the errors will lead you to the source of the problem.
  7. If all else fails, contact the manufacturer and collaboratively troubleshoot the issue.
  8. Update your ticketing system with new information.

Prevent Outages

  • Limit access to your network equipment
  • Dedicate resources to network outages at all times
  • Provision your network with back batteries and generators
  • Keep spare equipment on hand
  • Have a service contract in place with the manufacturer of your equipment
  • Implement a notification system for outages

1 Ponemon Institute, 2016, “Cost of Data Center Outages: January 2016”

2 Stanger, 2020, “How to Respond to a Network Outage: Best Practices”