Reliving the Biggest Online Outages of 2013

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2014-01-13 Email Print this article Print

How significant were the biggest Internet outages of 2013? Well, they were damaging enough to bring to a standstill a major U.S. government initiative, the world's financial markets, and cloud services from elite technology companies. And email shutdowns from the world's top providers exasperated users—many of them small business owners who lost sales due to the abrupt service interruption. The following list illustrates these and other notable incidents from last year, as compiled by Neverfail, a business continuity company. The list demonstrates how every facet of our global society—the financial world, governments, commerce and our personal lives—is now dependent on connectivity. It also reveals how much is at stake for organizations that suffer one of these crises, as literally millions of dollars can be lost before the problems are resolved. In addition, with companies increasingly turning to cloud-based resources to perform "faster, better, cheaper," such outages can draw immense public criticism, greatly straining customer loyalty. Neverfail ranked the list according to the number of users affected, the length of downtime, financial loss or potential impact on revenue, and geographical reach.

  • Microsoft's Windows Azure (Oct. 30)

    Duration: More than 20 hours. What happened: A subcomponent of the system failed worldwide, affecting every Azure region, including much of the U.S., Europe and Asia.
    Microsoft's Windows Azure (Oct. 30)
  • Google (Aug. 16)

    Duration: Less than 5 minutes. What happened: Google shut down, and Internet traffic dropped by about 40%.
    Google (Aug. 16)
  • Amazon Web Services (Sept. 13)

    Duration: Under 3 hours. What happened: The downside of clouds was on full display when a single availability zone went MIA, disrupting a notable portion of Internet activity.
    Amazon Web Services (Sept. 13)
  • NASDAQ (Aug. 22)

    Duration: 3 hours. What happened: What do you get when you combine a software bug with inadequate redundancy? Enough chaos to halt trading in the U.S.
    NASDAQ (Aug. 22)
  • OTC Markets Group (Nov. 7)

    Duration: More than 5 hours. What happened: A network failure prompted a complete shutdown in trading over-the-counter stocks in the U.S.—just as Twitter's shares debuted.
    OTC Markets Group (Nov. 7)
  • (Oct. 27 to 28)

    Duration: More than 16 hours. What happened: A data center service outage led to significant downtime for, giving critics of the Affordable Care Act plenty to complain about. (Oct. 27 to 28)
  • (Jan. 31)

    Duration: 49 minutes. What happened: Internal issues prompted a shutdown, as it displayed an error message. Analysts calculated that it may have resulted in $5 million in lost revenue. (Jan. 31)
  • Microsoft's Hotmail and Outlook (March 13)

    Duration: Nearly 16 hours. What happened: A firmware update caused the company's servers to overheat, knocking out Hotmail and Outlook.
    Microsoft's Hotmail and Outlook (March 13)
  • Google Drive (March 18 to 20)

    Duration: 17 hours. What happened: A glitch in the company's network control software resulted in latency and recovery problems. One-third of customers faced slow load times or full timeouts.
    Google Drive (March 18 to 20)
  • Google's Gmail (Sept. 23)

    Duration: 12 hours. What happened: A dual network failure triggered unusually slow download times, affecting 29% of users. For 1.5% of Gmail messages, large attachments took up to two hours.
    Google's Gmail (Sept. 23)
  • Yahoo! Mail (Dec. 9 to 13)

    Duration: Almost 4 days. What happened: A storage system-based hardware issue caused a prolonged partial email outage for users.
    Yahoo! Mail (Dec. 9 to 13)
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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