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Internet outages drastically increased during COVID-19 lockdowns, report finds

By Catherine Knowles
Fri 7 Aug 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Global internet disruptions increased 63% in March, with internet service providers hit the hardest. This is according to the 2020 Internet Performance Report from ThousandEyes, the internet and cloud intelligence company.

The study focused on the availability and performance of internet-related networks, including those of internet service providers (ISPs), public cloud, content delivery network (CDN) and domain name system (DNS) providers.

Measuring performance over time, the report examines the impacts of changing internet usage due to COVID-19 and how those impacts varied across different regions and providers.

The report found that global internet disruptions saw an unprecedented rise, increasing 63% in March over January, and remained elevated through the first half of 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. In June, 44% more disruptions were recorded compared to January.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in North America and APAC experienced the largest spikes in March - at 65% (North America) and 99% (APAC) respectively versus January, and have since returned to levels typical of those regions.

In EMEA, however, outages continue to increase month over month with 45% more disruptions in June versus January.

ISPs were hit the hardest, while cloud provider networks demonstrated greater overall stability. Between January and July, cloud providers experienced ~400 outages globally versus more than ~4500 in ISP networks.

Relative to total outages, more than 80% occurred within ISP networks and less than 10% within cloud provider networks. Though the total number of outages increased across all regions, impact on Internet users varied.

Following pre-pandemic patterns, a larger proportion of disruptions in EMEA tend to occur during peak business hours as compared to North America, where a majority of large outages typically take place outside of traditional business hours and therefore may not have a meaningful impact on Internet users.

Overall, the internet held up. Despite unprecedented conditions and an increase in network disruptions, internet-related infrastructures have held up well, suggesting overall healthy capacity, scalability, and operator agility needed to adjust to unforeseen demands, the report finds.

Negative performance indicators, such as traffic delay, loss, and jitter generally remained within tolerable ranges, showing no evidence of systemic network duress.

Increased network disruptions due to operator adjustments. Many of the network disruptions observed post-February appeared to be related to network operators making more changes to their networks to compensate for changing traffic conditions.

ThousandEyes research author and director of product marketing Angelique Medina says, “The internet is inherently unpredictable and outages are inevitable even under normal conditions.

"However, with the overnight transition to a remote workforce, remote schooling and remote entertainment that many countries experienced in March, we saw outages spike to unprecedented levels - especially among Internet Service Providers who seem to have been more vulnerable to disruptions than cloud providers.

“With the Internet Performance Report, businesses can benchmark Internet performance pre and post COVID-19 and plan for a more resilient IT environment as they continue to build out infrastructures that can manage the external dependencies on cloud and Internet networks that employee and consumer experiences now rely on.”

Rapid adoption of cloud services, widespread use of SaaS applications, and reliance on the internet has created business continuity risks for enterprises, the company finds.

Bloor Research research director IT Infrastructure Paul Bevan says, “Initially, we saw both businesses and service providers scramble to adjust, overnight, to work-from-home environments. However now, we see a definite shift towards accommodating a more permanent scenario of serving a remote workforce.

“This is creating a realignment of network infrastructure that will look very different from pre-March network platforms. The findings from ThousandEyes’ research will be critical in helping organisations understand the inter-dependencies that are at play between internal and external networks, and how to strengthen IT infrastructures now that the Internet has become a core component to manage.”

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