• 6 bizarre IT disasters

You think it will never happen to you. You assume your hard drive, server, network or perhaps your entire data centre is safe from unexpected outages. But when IT disaster strikes, it comes without warning, and can be in some bizarre forms.

Here are some of the weirder IT outages from over the years:

Squirrel attacks

Flood? Sure. Fire? Undoubtedly. But squirrels? Oh, yes. Attacks from our furry friends can drive data center operators nuts. A squirrel took down a Yahoo data center in 2010 after chewing through electrical cable. In 1987, a squirrel shut down the power system feeding the National Association of Securities Dealers’ automated quotation service for 82 minutes, stopping 20 million shares from being traded. The financial system survived, but the squirrel didn’t. Squirrels are among the top source of US power outages. The American Public Power Association even indexes them.

Crash landing for BA’s power equipment

In 2017, over the May bank holiday weekend, British Airways was forced to ground thousands of flights after what it described as a power surge knocked its data centre offline, taking down baggage, ticketing and check-in systems. 75,000 passengers were affected. CEO Alex Cruz said: that the back-up system “did not work at that particular point in time." The cost? £100m.


Truck takes out Rackspace

A Dallas/Fort Worth facility owned by data centre company Rackspace lost power to its chillers in 2007 after a trucker ran into a utility pole, knocking it into a transformer. Rackspace switched to a second utility provider to power its data centre’s chillers, but they failed to restart, causing it to take some servers offline in the rising heat. The incident took out services from SaaS provider 37Signals.

Human error causes VM terror

A fat-fingered employee at cloud services provider Joyent simultaneously rebooted all virtual servers in its US-East-1 data centre in 2014, causing outages for users. As all the virtual servers started booting back up, the load on the system slowed everything down. It took up to an hour for everything to get up and running again. The whole incident left the company investigating how a single operator could cause an outage of that magnitude without any failsafe mechanisms kicking in.

It's getting...err...warm in here

In June 2018, Microsoft's Azure suffered a service outage in northern Europe which impacted customers for at least five hours. And the cause? Microsoft's North Europe data centre is in Dublin, and the temperatures that day had soared to the heady heights of 18C... yes, just about t-shirt weather.

According to Microsoft an increase in outside air temperature, meant that control systems kicked in to keep the temperatures within the ideal range. However, this lead to an unexpected increase in humidity levels that caused hardware component failures in multiple network devices and hard disks, and a lot of very frustrated customers.

Just a second, let me fix this

In 2012, the International Earth Rotation and Reference and System Service added a leap second to the Earth's time to compensate for its uneven rotation. Unfortunately, it caused the Linux kernel to lock up, throwing many computer systems into turmoil. Reddit and LinkedIn were hit, as was the Amadeus Altea system that provides booking and reservation services for many airlines. The system was disrupted for over two hours, throwing airlines including Qantas in Australia into disarray, cancelling hundreds of flights.

Rather than taking any chances, investing in an up to date disaster recovery solution can help protect your precious data from furry fiends and fat fingers. If you haven't invested in proper disaster protection already, best look at it right away. After all, with random events like these, who knows what might crop up in your computer systems?


In our recent survey we asked organisations about their prepardness for IT disaster. And though many were quite confident they had an adequate solution in place, further questioning revealed some concerning gaps in strategy, from deployment through to testing. Find out more in the report...


Related articles:

4 reasons to reconsider your disaster recovery plan


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