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Employers take crash course as personal devices overload systems

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Network outages are more common than many Internet users realize, even among the industry’s best-known brands, said Chris Dornfeld, co-founder of DownRightNow.com. His company monitors 16 top tech websites, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Netflix and YouTube, and notifies users of all disruptions.

“I would say every day at least one of the sites we monitor has a significant outage,” Mr. Dornfeld said.

Many of these companies experience growing pains because they are not ready for traffic spikes that can come from the instant popularity of a new social network or a viral video, he said.

“When [companies] are still young, they often experience very rapid growth in audience,” Mr. Dornfeld said. “So they must scramble to keep up with that demand.”

These problems often occur when companies don’t maintain their websites properly, he said.

Even top tech sites aren’t immune to network outages. Last year, Amazon suffered a network outage in its Northern Virginia data center that affected a number of popular websites that use its cloud services, including such heavy-traffic clients as Foursquare, Reddit, Netflix and Instagram, which all went offline for hours.

“They had their own outage and that sort of had a domino effect on these other companies that also fell over because they were relying on Amazon,” Mr. Dornfeld said.

Verizon, which bills itself as the nation’s “most reliable network,” had three outages in December alone.

Microsoft also experienced an outage last year that shut down Office 365, Hotmail, SkyDrive and Windows Live.

This is happening, Mr. Brooks said, because companies are so focused on network security that they neglect to install the necessary upgrades to keep the system running smoothly.

“It’s easy to neglect something that you think is working,” Mr. Brooks said. “In a house, the foundation is the most important thing, and probably also the least maintained. The foundational elements are always the least looked at. When you look at network infrastructure, there is no difference.”

The only way to completely solve this problem is for companies to do some planning and upgrade their networks before a major disaster like this happens, Mr. Brooks said.

“The real solution is you really need to know where you are with your network and decide where you’re going,” he said.

About the Author

Tim Devaney

Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at tdevaney@washingtontimes.com.

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