Life without the internet – are you prepared?

3 minute read

Yesterday at around midday our office internet connection dropped out. You simply cannot believe the horror – there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Within our office, we were cut off.

The Sign-Up.to and eTickets.to applications are hosted in professional datacentres with huge redundancy in terms of both power and connectivity, so they’re unaffected, but we’re off the grid. Our telephone system has two old fashioned analogue lines, but all other lines are VoIP (Voice over IP) – so they require the internet, which isn’t there. All our email, including the sales and support services, is hosted in our data centres. So your emails to us get delivered to our servers just fine, but we can’t see them, or reply to them. We can’t monitor our applications, we can’t help our customers – we can’t even order lunch online! Our world has stopped turning.

Or has it? Fortunately, we’re prepared: we’ve got 3G phones that can act as modems but better than that, we’ve got a second internet connection. I really wanted one SDSL and one cable connection, but sadly we can’t get cable in this office, so we’ve got a spare ADSL connection instead. It’s actually quite a useful thing to have around even when the main connection is up. The main connection comes with a bunch of static IPs that support our VoIP and in-office servers, and one of those shares the connection around our workstations – all nicely firewalled and protected. The second connection provides wireless connectivity to our status monitors, and any laptops or other wifi enabled devices (such as iPhones) that staff or guests bring in. This separation is great – it keeps ‘unknown’ machines from our protected network, and shares the bandwidth around nicely. It’s also useful to test with another internet connection – anyone who has had to wait for a DNS change to propagate will know what I mean.

So when the main connection dropped out it wasn’t ideal, but after a bit of consideration we could swap a couple of cables over and make a simple change to our office firewall. The 0845 sales and support numbers were re-routed to our analog lines and we were off again. Sure, the internet is a little slower and our office servers don’t behave quite as we’d like, but it’s temporary and we’re online again. What would happen if both internet connections dropped? That’s when the 3G phones and cards save the day – it won’t be as neat but it would have to do.

The question is, can you cope without the internet? It’s impossible to prepare for everything – in the past some hardware or even an entire datacentre has let us down – but we strive to be prepared. And when it turns out we’re not, we must learn from our mistakes.