The Worst Website Outages of All Time

It has become common knowledge that website downtime equates to disaster, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. Businesses from the small start-ups to the large Fortune 500’s have experienced website downtime in one form or another over the past years. Unfortunately, website downtime doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Here are some of the worst website outages of all time, showing you how they affected both businesses and consumers alike.

1. The DDoS Attacks that Crippled Even Amazon and eBay

Perhaps the eye-opener that made everyone realize that no one was immune to website downtime were the DDoS attacks of February, 2000. A series of DDoS attacks disabled even the largest of Internet giants, including Yahoo, CNN, Amazon, Buy.com, ETrade, and ZDNet. The series of attacks was spread out over a period of days and while different sites were the target of the attacks, they were indeed thought to be connected. Back then companies didn’t realize just how damaging downtime could be to their profits and reputation, so details of the attacks and how much it actually cost these companies were left to the wayside. What is certain, however, is that this 2000 attack ushered in a new era, where no website was safe from the damage caused by vicious DDoS attacks and the knowledge that everyone needed to remain vigilant against downtime going forward.

2. When Virgin Blue’s Website Was Not Ready for Takeoff

In September of 2010, Virgin Blue’s airline check-in and online booking systems went down for the count due to a hardware failure. As a result, consumers couldn’t book online, complete reservations, or check in and board. The outage interrupted the airline’s operations for a whopping total of 11 days, affecting approximately 50,000 passengers and costing about $20 million in profits. Considering airlines should already be well-acquainted with security measures and protocol, protecting website and system uptime should definitely be near the top of the priority list when it comes to protecting profits and reputation. Needless to say, it is unlikely that those 50,000 affected travelers feel the same way they did about Virgin Blue as they did before the incident occurred.

3. When Dropbox Dropped the Ball

In January of 2014, Dropbox, a well-known file-sharing website used by over 300 million people, began the year with an outage on the 10th of the month. While claims are that the company’s IT support team was able to rectify the problem within 3 hours, access to files on the system remained inaccessible well into the following weekend. Then, in March, the site went down again for about an hour, with no explanation being given as to why the site was unavailable. The cost of Dropbox’s outage is impossible to estimate, with millions of users counting on the site for the productivity of their businesses and access to critical files. Needless to say, Dropbox users were not happy when they needed urgent access to the files they could no longer access and, in March, the lack of communication regarding the issues surrounding the site only further damaged the company’s reputation. While no hard numbers are available, it is safe to assume that many DropBox customers went in search of greener, more reliable pastures in which to store their files.

4. The Amazon AWS Nightmare                                                               

No one can talk about cloud or website outages without thinking about Amazon’s AWS outage, which affected numerous companies including big names like Netflix and Twilio. In April of 2011, Amazon AWS customers fell victim to a glitch that Amazon had suffered, and havoc was wreaked upon businesses everywhere. The reason? A novel-length explanation provided by Amazon that would take an estimated 40-plus hours to read. The problem itself persisted for approximately four days, causing numerous businesses to struggle and suffer severe profit loss. It is safe to say with the number of businesses affected and the length of time it took to correct the issue, tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of profits were lost.

Needless to say, big or small, cloud or server, your website is at risk of downtime. All of the greats have suffered outages at some point. Facebook is not immune. Google is not immune. Even the hosting companies themselves are not immune. No matter how big or small your company may be, downtime is not a question of if, it is a matter of when. What you need to ask yourself is, what are you going to do to minimize your profit loss when the dreaded website outage does happen?