Around 50% of London businesses have been affected by an internet outage, meaning many businesses are unable to work.
This is due to Level 3, a major member of the world's IP backbone suffering technical problems.
Level 3, who are one of the world's major internet backbone providers (and therefore provide the service to many commercial broadband companies such as BT and EE) have had routing protocol issues - resulting in lots of internet traffic being routed incorrectly. This has led to many businesses being unable to work. The problem has affected all of London, and also other locations around the world such as the US, Germany and Malaysia.
In more detail, Telecom Malaysia incorrectly told one of Level 3's networks that it was able to deliver traffic to anywhere on the internet. Subsequently, Level 3 started routing traffic via Malaysia, even if the server holding the data required was based somewhere much closer to home. This is why internet speeds may have been noticeably slower. Telecom Malaysia was also unable to handle anywhere near the amount of traffic it started receiving, resulting in lots of timed out requests.
How did this affect businesses?
Businesses accessing their data and programs in a "cloud" infrastructure via an internet connection will have been unable to work.
Millions of people were affected by the outage and left unable to work. Businesses with infrastructure hosted remotely in datacentres were worst affected, as internet connectivity is required to access data and applications held remotely.
Businesses using hosted payment systems would be unable to take payment, whilst those with hosted phones may have suffered from their phone system going down. Many businesses would have been unable to look up customer information, use software such as Sage or Adobe, whilst online businesses relying on a website as their shopfront would have lost revenue as customers could not access their store.
What can be done to continue working in this situation?
If your infrastructure is not hosted in a datacentre served by Level 3, you should have been mostly unaffected aside from poor internet connectivity. Some businesses were able to get online via 4G dongles in order to browse the internet and use email, but many of the services they wanted to use were still unavailable.
Unfortunately, if your IT infrastructure is fully hosted externally, it would have been difficult to continue working in this scenario. Only tasks not requiring access to the internet would have been possible to perform, and these tasks would number even less if business applications such as Sage, Office and Adobe were also hosted externally.
Total internet outages can stop businesses in their tracks: How to Prepare
It is important to note that the best defense against major IT problems is a proactive approach. Having the correct technology and infrastructure in place can be the difference between being stopped from working completely during an internet outage, or being able to work through. If a disaster strikes, it is better to be well prepared than to be fire-fighting.
Your IT Support or IT department should be able to advise you on the most reliable technology in such situations. Fully hosted infrastructure, or "cloud computing" is most affected by internet outages - but is more affordable for many businesses. Fully internal or on-premise infrastructure will be the least affected, but capital expenditure, maintenance, running costs and eventually replacement are all issues.
It is possible to marry some of the best features of both the cloud and on-premise IT models together, and eliminate some of the drawbacks of each with a "Hybrid IT" Solution. With Hybrid IT, you can gain many of the benefits of a cloud infrastructure, whilst retaining more control over your IT.
Every business has unique requirements, so it is best to speak to an IT expert who understands your business so they can carry out an audit and draw up a list of recommendations that are in line with your business goals.