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Apple Site Down! Service Interruptions a Fact of Internet Life? Experts Offer Answers


The recent loss of Internet services to over 400 businesses including Apple Computer, and of Internet access to tens of thousands of users, has left the both the Internet and the business community wondering if the explosive growth of the Internet will make it increasingly vulnerable to service interruptions or performance problems. Is the Web destined to suffer loss of services, such as the one that knocked out access and services for more than 24 hours last Friday? Are we going to be seeing more and more "sorry, cannot connect to server" messages? Can anything be done to protect your web site? The experts at Hiway Technologies, the world's leading Web Presence Provider, say yes, yes, and yes.

"It takes a huge investment in systems and infrastructure to power reliable web sites, so many smaller providers get what they can right now, and figure they'll upgrade when they have to. Unfortunately, that strategy leaves their systems -- and their customer's Web sites -- vulnerable not only to less than desirable performance, but to just this kind of complete service interruption," says Bill Nesbitt, chief technical officer at Hiway Technologies "Since it is so costly to try to remove all single points of failure, some providers "play the odds" and invest first in servers and bandwidth, and next in redundancy and backup power. This isn't necessarily the wrong strategy, it merely leaves room for the kind of event that happened last Thursday and Friday, with a power outage resulting in thousands of people and businesses losing their Internet services for more than a day. This incident was more than just a news story for the day -- it was a wake-up call to the industry that we need to solve the problem of reliability before it gets away from us."

As more and more companies rely on the Internet for communication, the possibility of continued systems failure is alarming. This issue was paramount when Nesbitt and his partner, Scott Adams, founded Hiway Technologies nearly two years ago. "The only way to ensure reliable service is to have redundant systems, access to separate Internet backbones, and full generator backup. We formulated a strategy from the beginning to provide for simultaneous growth in our performance capabilities, the reliability of our services, and the convenience and support we offer to our customers," continued Nesbitt. "We are continually building on the foundation we have set to give our customers the best in performance and reliability, and, in fact, because of the backup and redundancy that Hiway has in place today, an incident such as the recent power failure in the West would not have resulted in the dramatic loss of service to so many customers."

These are bold statements indeed from a service provider located in the heart of Florida during hurricane season. The recent problem in the West was apparently caused by rodents in an electrical system at Stanford University that cut off access lines to BBN Planet, a major Internet access provider. This took out some of the West's most popular Web sites and affected hundreds of businesses, including The Los Angeles Times, Apple Computer, and Hewlett-Packard. If something that local can knock out service to that many people, for that long, what kind of reliability can we expect? What about the weather, the power system overloads? What about natural disasters?

Scott Adams, president of Hiway Technologies, concurs that Hiway's position may appear overly optimistic. "In light of this incident it would be ridiculous to say that we won't ever be affected; we're not saying that. But, we are confident in our systems, and that confidence has been borne out over the recent season, with the severe weather we've had." Customers seem to agree -- Hiway recently announced that it is hosting over 10,000 domain customers, and now that number has grown to over 12,000, making them the industry's largest Web hosting provider.

Hiway's predictions for the future of Internet? "Until the infra?ucture and backup systems are strengthened, the Internet will be continue to be plagued by performance problems, bottlenecks, and system failures," says Adams. But there is hope. More and more Web hosting services are joining Hiway in the move toward redundant systems and full generator backup, as well as increasing server capacity and bandwidth. This bodes well for the increasing demand on the Internet infrastructure.



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