Today's major Internet outage that spanned countries across Asia and much of the Middle East highlights exposures for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and enterprises worldwide, Info-Tech Research Group said today. The widespread slowdown is being caused by two damaged undersea cables off the coast of Egypt that connect India and much of the Middle East to North America and Europe under the Atlantic Ocean. It is estimated that the problem may not be resolved for days or weeks.

"Even though ISPs and many enterprises have considerable redundancy built into their networks, and most large ISPs certainly have upstream diversity, an incident of this magnitude illuminates the fact that Internet bandwidth is a finite resource," said Mark Tauschek, senior analyst with Info-Tech Research Group. "There is only so much bandwidth available, and even with redundancy and diversity built into the networks, when you take away 60 percent of the bandwidth serving a given geography it is next to impossible to divert all that traffic to an alternate route. There simply isn't enough bandwidth available to make up for it."

The inconvenience for enterprises and individuals is nothing compared to the impact of such widespread lack of connectivity on business, which is likely to be in the billions of dollars, Info-Tech said. Some of the largest Indian outsourcing companies have been unaffected by the disruption due to complete redundancy using undersea cabling that crosses the Pacific Ocean, but most enterprises do not have the resources or ability to create completely redundant Internet connectivity.

"Of course this type of event makes us wonder what if it happened here?" said Tauschek. "Fortunately, North America is better served because of having more recent fiber optic infrastructure with multiple redundancy points and alternate long-distance routes built into telecom and Internet infrastructure. While the fiber optic boom of the 90's had its downside, the good news for users in North America is that our overbuilt Information Highways are much more reliable than those in other parts of the world. However, ISPs should always ensure they have redundant upstream Internet providers."

Info-Tech recommends that enterprises prepare business continuity plans for critical services such as Internet connectivity. All enterprises that rely on Internet connectivity to carry on business should implement short-term and long-term plans to insulate themselves from incidents such as this.