Google suffers rare global outage taking down Gmail, Docs
Numerous Google applications were inaccessible for over half an hour yesterday after an unprecedented global outage.
Gmail, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Docs and Slides, YouTube, Google Maps and more were all returning error messages to users, although its defining search engine carried on without problem.
Ed Macnair, CEO of , commented: “According to Google, more than 6 million companies used G Suite (now known as Google Workspace) as of March 2020, which gives us some sense of the scale of the disruption this outage will have caused. There are numerous benefits for businesses to use cloud services, including the ability to collaborate; easy, affordable storage and – as many will have learned in lockdown – the ability to access files remotely. However, outages are one of the risks.”
In , Google Cloud pinned the blame on its authentication system, which is used for logging in to accounts, saying: “Today, at 3.47AM PT Google experienced an authentication system outage for approximately 45 minutes due to an internal storage quota issue. This was resolved at 4:32AM PT, and all services are now restored.”
That was borne out by the fact that YouTube was still accessible providing users accessed it via incognito mode, thus not needing to be logged in to their Google accounts.
“In times of outage maintaining access to email, the most vital communication channel, is key,” continued Macnair. “To reduce the risk of downtime and its effect on business productivity, organisations need to have fallback solutions - for example, third party providers that secure Gmail can provide an emergency inbox service, accessed via a webmail style interface, that provides access to send and receive emails even when Google services are offline.”
The outage revealed the extent to which many individuals and businesses rely on large tech companies like Google to provide vital services, and the trust we place in them to operate uninterrupted. It was that smart lighting systems and speakers connected to Google Home were inoperable due to the crash, with lights unable to be turned on.
In a statement, the company said: “"All services are now restored. We apologise to everyone affected, and we will conduct a thorough follow-up review to ensure this problem cannot recur in the future."
Fastly's CDN Reportedly to Blame for Global Internet Outage
A huge outage has brought down a number of major websites around the world. Among those affected are gov.uk, Hulu, PayPal, Vimeo, and news outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times.
It is thought a glitch at Fastly ─ a popular CDN provider ─ is causing the worldwide issue. Fastly has confirmed it’s facing an outage on its status website but fails to specify a reason for the fault ─ only that the problem isn’t limited to a single data centre and, instead, is a “global CDN disruption” that is potentially affecting the company’s global network.
“We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services,” the firm said.
What is Fastly?
Fastly is a content delivery network (CDN) company that helps users view digital content more quickly. The company also provides security, video delivery, and so-called edge computing services. They use strategically distributed, highly performant POPs to help move data and applications closer to users and deliver up-to-date content quickly.
The firm has been proving increasingly popular among leading media websites. After going public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019, shares rose exponentially in price, but after today’s outages, Fastly’s value has taken a sharp 5.21% fall and are currently trading at US$48.06.
What are CDNs?
Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a web of small computers, or servers, that link together to collaborate as a single computer. CDNs improve the performance of internet-connected devices by placing these servers as close as possible to the people using those devices in different locations, creating hundreds of points of presence, otherwise known as POPs.
They help minimise delays in loading web page content by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. This helps users around the world view the same high-quality content without slow loading times.
Without a CDN, content origin servers must respond to every single end-user request. This results in significant traffic to the origin and subsequent load, thereby increasing the chances for origin failure if the traffic spikes are exceedingly high or if the load is persistent.
The Risk of CDNs
Over time, developers have attempted to protect users from the dangers of overreliance through the implementation of load balancing, DDoS (Denial of Service) protection, web application firewalls, and a myriad of other security features.
Clearly, by the state of today’s major website outage, these measures aren’t enough. Evidently, CDNs present a risk factor that is widely underestimated ─ which needs to be rectified with haste. Content delivery networks have become a key part of the global infrastructure, and so it’s imperative that organisations start to figure out risk mitigation strategies to protect companies reliant on the interconnected service from further disruption and disarray.