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Thursday, December 28, 2006

How robust is the Internet to Natural Disaster?

I have always wondered how robust is the Internet in the face of natural disaster? At the moment I am visiting Hong Kong and is experiencing the first hand the reaction of the Internet in the face of a natural disaster. Many may have already read that on Boxing day, the southern part of Taiwan has experienced a very severe earthquake.

While the damages in terms of loss of life and properties have been minimal as it happened under the sea of the island, the damages to the Internet communication to the US and Southern hemisphere have been very severe.

Internet Banking, gmail, hotmail and messenger have been off the air and if not the services are limping along. Some local Chinese newspaper puts the loss to ask high as 60-70% of normal performance. There have been 6 fibre optic submarine cables being affected.

So far I can only reach GMail today and it was off air totally yesterday. Ping of www.microsoft.com are www.hotmail.com are not recognised. Probably the local ISP just took these sites off their DNS servers to avoid a kind of DOS as people trying to reach them.

It is amazing I could get to my Gmail but I cannot get to my Hotmail accounts. Of course the MSN Messenger's status stite is useless as I cannot reach that site. I could not reach my web mail.

Not happy at all.

Traffic to the west appears to be fine as I can reach bbc, a UK site, and a company in Germany with the normal Internet speed. Tracert to Australia sites, like news.com.au and ABC meet with extremely long times and often with sequences of timeout.

Strangely, I can reach the Google Australia, ANZ Bank , The Commonwealth Government's Department of Immigration but not the Commonwealth Bank.

If 6 cables damages are enough to bring down the Internet traffic this way, it does not take much to cause severe financial damages to many places and some companies may even been driven to the wall. I guess this is the price to pay to become connected without an effective geographic diversity route to cater for this kind of disruption.

Let's hope this instance will cause the Internet community to rethink and to provide sufficient geographic diversity strategy to deal with this kind of 'attack'.

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