19 August 2013

"Faceback" -- Analyzing the Facebook Backup Plan after NY Times Outage

On August 14 of this year, the New York Times web site experienced an outage that affected its web and mobile services. The outage lasted for around an hour and a half. The explanation was similar to others the GlitchReporter has listed on this site: the problem emerged when a maintenance update had been released.

Tentative Root Cause Analysis

Software testing failure.

Other Worries

The outage was significant for a number of reasons, but two of them are worthy of additional analysis.
  1. Hacker Scare There was an abundance of tweets suggesting that the site had been hacked by Chinese adversaries, or had been the object of a DoS attack. This misinformation is likely to become a recurring issue and not only for the NYT. While it can be subsequently "disproven," some customers will continue to believe that site had been hacked and is thus less reliable than previously believed.
  2. Failover and Backup While the New York Times technology folks were sorting out what their representative called "an internal problem," important news was happening. Computerworld said that at around 12:45 p.m.on the day of the outage, "the Times tweeted that it was posting major breaking stories on its Facebook page." As the Guardian's Dan Gilmore worried, this is a flawed, and perhaps simply a spur of the moment decision. Social network platforms should provide channels for announcements of alternate NYT digital publication channels -- not host them. 

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