One could easily say that a perfect storm was brewing. An ever increasing switch to cloud computing, off site data centers and the higher than ever demand for QoS performance rates, coupled with an aging and decaying physical telephonic and wired Internet infrastructure, are coming together to create a perfect storm of catastrophic economic and financial problems that will have an adverse effect on a wide range of businesses. Given that the majority of this infrastructure that technology relies on is underground, it is understandable that many companies do not realize their vulnerability. It is imperative that companies take steps to not only understand their vulnerability but to address the potential hazards that exist with the current infrastructure.

How Bad Is It?

From high profile attacks such as the vandalism in California to accidents that involve cable breaks, our underground networks are vulnerable to human intrusion. While often these gain media attention, what is less known is the fact that the majority of the fiber laid in the U.S. is from prior to the dot com crash in 2000. Some of the fiber, most of which is used for the Internet backbone was laid in the 80’s, meaning some of the fiber and copper cables that much of the modern Internet is built on is over 30 years old.

Hydrological and geological changes over a 30 year time period has and will continue to take its toll, further degrading the technology infrastructure as network sharing becomes increasingly common. A recent, 2015 study from the University of Wisconsin acknowledged the role of network sharing in outages; “The main reasons for such localized and temporal Internet outages are typically a lack of geographic diversity in connectivity¬† and a tendency for significant physical infrastructure sharing among the affected providers” All the while, construction contractors have taken steps to practice better excavation safety, thus reducing human instructions, the larger tel-coms have focused on mergers and acquisitions while reducing capital spending for network build outs.



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What Can Be Done?

clip_image003Unless your company wants to invest in its own fiber network, there are limitations to how prepared a company can be. The first step is to prepare a risk assessment of your companies specific vulnerability. Based on this risk assessment, work with your network providers to develop contingency plans to accommodate both onsite connectivity and alternate site connectivity. Secondly, develop in house strategies to deal with both long, and short term outages. Taking advantage of both cloud computing systems and in house networks are a way to minimize disruption. Finally, working with state and local, public partners to help generate awareness by policy makers to the state of and need for infrastructure funding that provides stability and protection to the underground and aerial physical infrastructure. While no single approach will eliminate all vulnerability, a combined approach of risk management and contingency planning, combined with working with providers and partners can reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic outage that will damage your business.

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