Avoiding 7 Hour Network Outage for Businesses

Infrastructure matters. When networks unexpectedly fail, IT downtime can have a direct impact on your bottom line, business operations and reputation.  On August 30th just after 6 AM ET, CenturyLink/Level 3, a major ISP and Internet bandwidth provider, experienced a significant outage that impacted a significant number of services and providers across the Internet.  CenturyLink/Level 3’s incorrect command brought down some of the routers inside its network, some of those routers also began to announce incorrect BGP routes to other “Tier 1” neighboring internet service. This, in turn, impacted other internet service providers and caused connectivity problems for many companies.  The outward-propagating issue led to a 3.5% drop in global internet traffic, which would make this one of the biggest internet outages ever recorded.


The global Internet is a collection of separate, but interconnected networks, each of which is managed as a single administrative domain called an Autonomous Systems (AS). There are over sixty thousand AS numbers assigned to a wide variety of companies, education, governments, and internet service providers.  Many users, services and ISPs impacted as a result of this outage were not customers or direct peers of CenturyLink/Level 3, yet they found that their traffic was routed through that provider at some point.  The dynamic, uncontrolled nature of public Internet routing was highlighted during this incident, accentuating the significant impact of peering and provider choices — not only your own, but those of your peers and their peers.


Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate all factors that contribute to outages, but there are measures that can be taken to minimize their impact.


Not all Internet is the same. Today there are thousands of SaaS providers, content providers, and broadband networks that comprise the Internet.  High demand content and SaaS providers – like AWS, Zoom, Netflix, and Microsoft 365 – are not directly connected to Tier 1 backbone networks, but are on other Tier 2 and 3 networks “circling around” the interconnected Tier 1 backbone at the center or core.  These other providers buy bandwidth from the Tier 1 providers and rely on them to route traffic between the different sources and destinations that are outside of Tier 1 core.


The Unitas difference is that we built our IP network to bypasses the Tier 1 core entirely, wherever possible, and take customer traffic directly to its destination, traversing the fewest number of networks and interconnections.  Direct peering is an interconnection that allows two networks to connect and exchange traffic directly without having to pay a third party to carry traffic across the Internet.  With direct peering, data takes a more direct path, reducing latency and packet loss. This also improves resiliency between business and SaaS providers via multiple routes in many locations around the world.


Unitas aggressively peers to improve performance for our clients.  This was never truer than on the morning of August 30th when network monitoring shows minimal loss percentage on the Unitas AS1828 IP network (Biz-Internet on the chart below from third party SD-WAN device).

Chart low loss percentage during Aug 30 Internet outage

What was a seven-hour outage for some impacting major technology brands including Amazon, Twitter, Xbox Live, EA, Reddit, Hulu, Duo Security, was minimized for Unitas clients who continued to be routed directly to services.


Another step to minimize the impact of outages is to have back up services from diverse carriers. While GoToMeeting uses CenturyLink/Level 3 Internet, it went to its back-up provider shortly after the outage started. Unitas is network neutral and provides diverse carrier and diverse route services from over 550 Fiber, Ethernet and IP providers with the convenience of one Master Services Agreement and one invoice.


Further action in working to prevent issues occurring during outages is to ensure that constant monitoring of your system is set up both by your network provider and internally within your organization. At Unitas, we are proactive in monitoring your network and cloud system, but this is not true of all providers.

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