The Internet's essential role in daily life was shown this week in the reactions to a pair of web site outages. Normally, downtime of less than an hour on a single web site would be a non-event. But when the site in question is Google or eBay, the outages trigger headlines and speculation.
A DNS glitch Saturday left google.com inaccessible for approximately 15 minutes, prompting nearly 100 news stories (and thousands of blog postings) bearing breathless headlines such as "Google Goes AWOL" and "Google Goes Down for 15 Minutes." Some of the fuss can be attributed to an early report by blogger Om Malik that Google had been hacked. Google says the issue was a DNS configuration error, rather than a DNS hijacking, and was quickly fixed. If nothing else, the incident highlighted the extent of reliance upon Google (especially among tech journalists and bloggers).
Last night it was eBay's turn, as a power outage at a San Francisco area data center affected some auctions for about two hours and left the eBay main page inaccessible for approximately 20 minutes. This quickly led to news stories about the outage and its impact upon the millions of eBay sellers, whose busineses and cash flow are directly affected by downtime. eBay is offering credits and auction extensions to sellers whose auctions were unavailable or delayed.
The widespread attention to such brief outages serves as a reminder that as the Internet becomes more essential, downtime becomes a more critical issue for web sites and their users and customers. Netcraft's Hosting Monitoring and Outage Alerting provides independent tracking of downtime at major service providers and e-mail alerts when outages occur. This data can be useful in evaluating provider performance and documenting uptime for service-level agreements. For providers, accurate information comparative network performance significantly changes the playing field in favor of hosts with quality networks and reliable service offerings.