BEST OF THE WEB: How hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the web

Hurricane Sandy has dealt a devastating blow to New York City’s infrastructure. With subway tunnels filled with water, buildings that will need to be pumped out and more than 50 homes destroyed from a fire in Queens, it’s one of the worst disasters the city has seen.

But in a sign of how dependent we are on technology, Sandy didn’t just rip down trees and power lines. It devastated some of the web’s biggest providers.

This piece on The New York Times details just how bad the storm was for online businesses – including publishing giant The Huffington Post.

“Suddenly, nobody could get online,” said Arianna Huffington, president and chief executive of The Huffington Post, which went offline about 7 p.m. Monday when the computer servers of Datagram, which distribute its work on the Internet, stopped working because of rising water in Lower Manhattan.

The Huffington Post wasn’t the only one. Gawker Media went offline for hours, moving its sites to Tumblr in order to post updates. And hosting company Squaresoft sent an email to its customers warning of some downtime due to complications with their hosting providers.

Thankfully some larger providers, like Amazon, were out of the way. But as the piece describes, the past few days highlights just how feeble the internet can be. After all, everything runs on the same electricity.

And it’s not going to get better for a while.

Providers of critical Internet services to business in the area will be set back until full power is restored.

A large building on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, owned by Google which houses several other service providers as well, was relying on a 90,000-gallon tank of diesel fuel to run emergency operations, according to one of the building’s tenants.

Australian businesses may not run into hurricanes very often, but this nevertheless represents a key lesson – having a backup strategy is not just good preparedness; it’s essential business strategy.

You should also check out this piece on FastCompany with an alternative view that the internet is “mostly” hurricane-proof.

…and speaking of Sandy, here’s how Google tracked the storm

Google is usually pretty good in tracking natural disasters and keeping people informed. Even though you may not have been anywhere near hurricane Sandy, you should definitely have a look at their interactive crisis map and see how they tracked what was happening on the ground.

You can view the map here.

LivingSocial’s excuse for a $566 million loss

LivingSocial booked a loss of $566 in its third quarter.

If that’s not a testament to how group buying is performing, nothing is. But what’s more interesting is the email chief executive Tim O’Shaughnessy sent to his staff explaining why this is.

O’Shaughnessy said the writedown was mostly due to writedowns on acquisitions.

“We had to revalue some of the companies we acquired last year,” he said. “As you know, the market has also dropped over that same time for similar public tech companies.”

The memo came after Amazon, which is one of the company’s backers, reported a $US274 million loss of its own. Partly because of the association it had with LivingSocial.

The whole memo is an interesting insight into the company’s thinking. You can read the entire thing here.

Sean Parker on why businesses fail

Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker may not be the best person to be giving advice on how companies fail, considering his latest company AirTime hasn’t been doing so well. But this video on FastCompany about observations he’s made about failing companies can provide a lot of good information.

The essential point is that failure isn’t just experiencing a mistake once or twice, but systematic failure over time.


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