Disaster recovery questions raised after Facebook downtime

Social networking site Facebook was put out of action for over two and a half hours last Thursday and the fact that this had repercussions for its 500 million users and thousands of other sites which rely on its tools, has caused some people to question the disaster recovery and continuity policies which are operated by one of the world’s largest websites.

As well as becoming inaccessible via direct means, Facebook’s outreach to other sites via like and sharing functions embedded in third party pages were unavailable, causing widespread confusion. This event is considered to be rare and Facebook representatives have been quick to clarify the causes and the way in which recovery was ensured.

Facebook’s chief of software, Robert Johnson, said that the firm was sorry to have caused any problems for its users and other sites and claimed that nothing as serious as this had happened since 2006.

Mr Johnson identified that the major problem was caused by a malfunctioning, flawed system operating automatically. The totality of the outage was seen as so severe as to be irrecoverable, no matter how good the disaster recovery planning.

The global impact of the Facebook outage was registered by many independent bodies and for a period some were suggesting that the downtime was caused by a denial of service attack from privacy campaigners, unhappy with the social networking site’s policies on protecting personal information. This was quickly rebuked by officials who said that it was an internal error.

The way in which Facebook engineers remedied the problem has become something of an industry joke, because like many far simpler IT problems, the issue was only fixed once the offending databases had been turned off and then rebooted once a solution had been found.

Although the outage suffered by Facebook was relatively short, the scope of its influence means that even the smallest blip is noted by hundreds of millions of active users and its disaster recovery planning becomes the immediate subject of international scrutiny.

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