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You Wouldn’t Do This If It Was A Water Main

August 22, 2022

I work for a software company. We have a product that is a SaaS or Software as a Service. Even when we are in the office, we log into our software across the internet. It’s not that unusual. Most software companies work the same way. In fact, I’m not sure there’s even a single application I use on a daily basis that doesn’t live on the net.

So, on Friday when our Internet went out, we were pretty much dead in the water. It wasn’t a complete surprise. Crews have been working on installing fiber in the neighborhood behind our office. Apparently they cut a fiber line. It happens. They cut it while I was at lunch. By the time I came back everyone was gone except the office manager and the guy who does marketing.

The marketing guy is also in charge our services. He was working to find out why the internet was out. (We hadn’t found out about the cut line yet.) So, I headed home. Thirty minutes later and I was back online and working. I didn’t even miss any meetings.

The nice thing about all of our apps online is that I can log in just as easily from home as from the office. It was a very productive day on Friday.

So, Monday morning I headed into the office. And the Internet was. . .still out. The only people there were. . .the office manager and the marketing guy.


How can services be down for 60 hours?

Well, it turns out that they fiber company figured out that they cut the cable. And they certainly could fix it. After all, they were a fiber company.

But, it turns out that to dig in our city you have to have a permit. And, of course, the city permitting offices aren’t open on the weekend. So, the fiber companies couldn’t even START repairing the circuit until Monday morning. Well, Monday morning they could ask for the permit to allow them to start repairing.

I thought about critical services.

Suppose instead of a fiber line, the fiber company had cut a water line? Or a power line? Or . . .eww. . .a sewer line?

Would the city require the company to wait three days to even START repairing it? Of course not. Not with water or sewage running down the street. And not with an entire neighborhood without power.

And yet, for a company like ours, and possibly yours too, internet connections are every bit as vital as water or power. We couldn’t do anything, nothing. We were completely helpless.

I’m sure we have SLAs, service level agreements, that control recourse if they can’t provide services. But, it’s about more than just money. It’s about critical services to run a business.

When I was working a previous company I helped design data centers. Everything was redundant. Not only did we have two service providers, there was a requirement that the lines enter on opposite sides of the data center. That way, a single errant backhoe couldn’t cut both feeds at once.

I suppose our company could attempt to get two service providers. And our servers weren’t offline over the weekend, of course. They are safely hosted in the cloud and more than likely distributed over multiple servers and multiple data centers.

I spent the day working from home. It was a very productive day. The internet was supposed to be fixed this afternoon. I don’t think they would have waited this long for water, sewer, power, or any other utility.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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