Discussing, or not discussing, major business outages

George Herbert gherbert at crl.com
Sun Feb 7 08:02:53 UTC 1999

Dave Rand writes:
>>George Herbert: 
>> I would like to see the issue discussed in general terms
>> at least; what is appropriate for notifications, what are
>> fair responsibilities to customers, the public, other ISPs etc.
>> in terms of this sort of event.
>As has happened in the past, it is my opinion that the techincal contacts
>for that organization should step forth at the appropriate time with
>details.  This may, in fact, be after connectivity has been lost.
>Often, last minute negotations can restore services with only a momentary
>outage.  No one but the people directly involved should be aware of this,
>for business reasons.  Sometimes, business go through tough times for
>reasons beyond their control.  No reflection on the technical abilities of
>the people involved - but just business.

The reason I asked the question is that I have been bit today by
a series of 4 outages (all completely unrelated to the provider I
referred to which is going out of business) from unrelated ISP links
or business-critical systems of which at least 2, probably 3 should
have resulted in proactive notifications or at least prompt reactive
warnings to the customers/users and neighboring parties, and such
notifications and warnings did not happen.  I am now passing 13
hours of work today in reaction to those events.  This has made
me extremely sensitive to this sort of issue today.

This provider which went out of business apparently has, in fact,
cut off lines and forced customers to move (though not all of them)
at this time, though I do not have firsthand knowledge of this.
They are off the net completely as far as I am able to tell
(though I could be wrong... I am busy fighting my own fires,
and things may be more up than I can see right now).

I agree that this is no reflection on the technical abilities
of the people involved.  It is, as Dave says, just business,
and not all businesses succeed.  But there is ethical responsibility
to operate, and if it comes to that cease operations, in a manner
that provides for minimal trouble for your customers, suppliers,
and other related businesses.  There appears to be a tendency for
the "right time" to talk, as judged by the ISPs which are shutting
down, to be woefully late.  It is business, but business in a way
that can significantly affect operational issues and stability.

>I'm certain that others would like to see the insides of every company
>exposed at all times.  While it may be important to the customers, or
>potential customers, it should be a part of the diligence of the customer to
>inspect the worthiness of their supplier.
>I'm equally certain that the providers in question will step forward at
>the appropriate time to establish facts.

Obviously, most businesses need to operate with careful
limits on public disclosure, because operational issues are
often of competitive importance and it's very easy to lose
significant amounts of money via trivial information leaks.
But that does have its limits.

-george william herbert
gherbert at crl.com   I do not work for CRL nor speak for it.

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