On October 4th this year we were all a little confused for a few hours when our phones just didn’t seem to be working. WhatsApp messages were not sending, our Instagram feeds were stuck on the same post from hours before, and we couldn’t log into our Facebook accounts to speak to family members and friends. It was mad how we had become so accustomed to these three apps being such a central part of our lives, that when there was an outage, it almost felt like it was the beginning of the end of the world. How could we possibly cope?!

Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram faced a major outage. They were all down for at least five hours that day, with 3.51 billion users left in online darkness, unable to interact and communicate with others. It was a mild inconvenience for most users, but there was a big impact felt for some people who use these online platforms as their only means of communication with other people, or for those needing to get in touch with someone for support during an emergency. Big brands felt the pinch too, with businesses suffering from the blackout for a few hours, where they would usually see big numbers interacting and purchasing from them on social media.

What actually happened with the Facebook outage?

On October 4th, 2021, at 11.45 EST, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all went offline. It wasn’t just that the apps and websites were unavailable to users across the world (which would be bad enough), but there was also a problem with the internal communications tools within the company itself. What this meant was that it became increasingly difficult to fix the problem.

Developers working for Facebook could not access any online apps to push new builds, they couldn’t access any documentation and all Oculus platform services were down. The engineering teams discovered that configuration changes on the backbone routers had caused issues with the communication. These routers are tasked with coordinating network traffic between data centres. This disruption to the network traffic then led to a negative impact that spread through to the data centres, bringing all services to a halt.

Twitter came alive on the day, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram users heading to the platform to tweet about the problems over on the other socials. There were stories of Facebook engineers being locked out of the server rooms because the outage had caused even their key cards to not function correctly. It was mayhem of the highest order. There would need to be a manual override of the problem, rather than something that could be achieved manually.

What was the result of the Facebook outage?

There is quite a large percentage of the digital economy that is powered by Facebook, which meant that an outage on this scale had a wider impact than just locking users out of their individual Facebook accounts for a few hours. Any company that was running ad campaigns on Facebook or Instagram, or communicating with customers through those platforms, also suffered financial losses during this time. For many countries in the world, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app, for personal, professional, and political communication. For Zuckerberg himself, his net worth dropped $7 billion in one day, as the stock declined by about 5%.

What lessons can we learn from the Facebook outage of October 2021?

The biggest takeaway from the Facebook outage is that we are all so reliant on the Internet for everything that we do these days. A large proportion of the global population is over-reliant on these social platforms, and when there is a monopoly like the one Facebook seemingly has over a range of platforms and communication tools, when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong for a lot of people.

Lesson No. 1 – Expect human error

Most IT disasters begin with a simple, single, human fault. It is important to understand the types of human errors that take place and build in processes that limit the damage these errors can cause. With this Facebook outage, it came about from a routine network maintenance process where an accidental command was issued that brought down more servers (and important servers) that were planned. You can never fully remove the problem of user error, but you can look at why such a tiny error can cause such a massive problem for a wider network.

Lesson No. 2 – Tech is not always the perfect answer

We all like to think that technology is the answer to everything, and it is great and getting better all the time, but it isn’t the perfect answer every time. There is still room for growth and innovation, and tech is more dependable than it has ever been before, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. We also know after this Facebook outage that human error is always going to be present. Some businesses might think that it is now best to launch accounts on as many different social media platforms as you can. If Facebook is down, you’ve still got TikTok so it’s all good right? Not really, you need to have a coherent social strategy that makes sense for your business and brand.

Lesson No. 3 – Avoid dependency on interdependent systems

Sometimes it cannot be avoided, but, if possible, companies should be less dependent on interconnecting systems where when one part fails the whole network fails. In this instance, one single faulty command led to a domino-effect where everything shut down. There needs to be a system in place where there is a fall-back system and a process of utilising older technology that is a reliable solution to provide a short-term fix.

Lesson No. 4 – Find the perfect balance

Every business must decide what you need to balance between speed and a resilience of data and processes. When there is an outage, or any problem at all, it can damage the confidence that customers have in the brand and business. It is not an unusual occurrence for maintenance errors to cause outages, so it is important that Facebook, and every organisation, have secure practices in place that reduce these instances and limit the damage caused when something does happen.

Social media management for your business

At Candy, we understand how important it is for your brand to be always visible to your customers and potential customers. If there is an outage on Facebook again in the future, you must know what to do and how. That’s where we come in to help. Our team has the experience of managing social media management where your brands are consistent and ready to make a good impression at every stage.

To find out more about our social media management services and how they fit within our range of digital marketing services, contact us today on 0161 826 0123 or email us hello@candymarketing.co.uk.