Zoom suffered an outage for over four hours Monday morning as an undetermined issue prevented users from starting or joining meetings and webinars.
Reached for comment, Zoom did not say how many users were affected by the outage but provided a statement saying the issue had been resolved. Tens of thousands of users experienced issues with the platform according to Downdetector, a site that crowdsources system outage reports.
Tuesday morning, Slack also reported trouble uploading files, messages and connecting to the collaboration platform. The outage lasted about 90 minutes, according to the company's status page.
When tools critical for operations crash, companies are left without a roadmap, instinctively seeking a patchwork of alternative platforms. Provider redundancy can help sustain operations during a key tool's outage but costs and concerns of app sprawl influence how much cover CIOs seek for a potential communication breakdown.
Organizations can protect themselves from the impact of a key platform outage by:
Having back-up systems clearly identified and ready to go in tool stacks
Assessing the existing capabilities of tools currently on hand
Exploring the free options of competing vendors to weather an outage
Given their reliance on digital platforms, teams "need to consider" having a backup method for communicating and collaborating in order to optimize their resources and sustain their operational efficiency when outages strike, said Liz Beavers, head geek at SolarWinds.
For knowledge workers especially, collaboration tools are the background for interaction at work, and often a conduit for mission-critical processes.
A redundancy strategy doesn't necessarily involve signing the whole organization up for an enterprise license of a secondary vendor. Email, IT service desk platforms and other tools could become a resource to quickly provide answers and keep work moving forward in an outage.
In the event Slack goes down, for example, companies may turn to tools embedded in their email providers.
In the context of tightening IT budgets, companies are performing "application cleanses," taking stock of what platforms are currently on hand and which redundancies can be eliminated, said Beavers.
"I think it's a balancing act," said Beavers, between what companies "can do from a financial perspective, what's needed to ensure business continuity, employee success, and promoting a positive employee experience."
Nailing down a backup strategy
Having vendor redundancy can be likened to getting an insurance policy, said Art Schoeller, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.
Executives have to ask themselves, "is it something that from a risk mitigation perspective, you want to spend the money to do, or just survive the outage?" Schoeller said.
In weighing backup plans, CIOs don't often leverage companywide adoption of secondary vendor. Instead, they're more likely to consider the free option of an existing platform as part of their toolkit, Schoeller said.
During staff onboarding, employees should be made aware of preferred backup options as part of company toolkits as the outage subsides.
Though in the past collaboration tool adoption was often left to individual departments, organizations are likely to have one main, cross-company platform.
Crashing platforms are uncommon, but organizations need to stay prepared to protect their operations as more processes transition into the digital realm.
The disruption surrounding outages might be easy to attribute to dependence on cloud computing, said Craig Roth, research VP at Gartner, in an email. But business should remember that 15 years ago, work likely would come to a screeching halt if in-person work suddenly became an impossibility.
"As destructive as these events are, they are rare and there are more alternatives available then we had in the past," said Roth. Ahead of time, organizations should "plan for a second service that will be ready as a backup," which means having apps installed and ready to go when outages strike.