What the Rogers Outage Can Teach Us About Failover

by Jim Donnelly | July 18, 2022

You may have heard of Canadian telecom Rogers Communications’s recent network outage from a botched maintenance update. It was a big one.

Indeed, thanks to Canada’s archaic telecommunications laws – which actively discourage competition and encourage consolidation at the top of the food chain – the outage knocked out an impressive 25 percent of the entire country’s internet traffic.

The country of Canada clearly didn’t think to have a failover in place should one of its two major telecom networks go down, even though a similar outage had occurred just a year earlier. (If you sense any distaste, it’s because we are based out of Canada and tired of our expensive telecom ecosystem).

The outage has caused many IT folks to wonder why Rogers didn’t have an effective failover in place, either. But what exactly is a failover, anyway – and how do they help keep applications and networks up and running?

Let’s find out.

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What is a Failover?

A failover is a backup operational mode – often either a database, server, or network – in mission-critical systems used when the system’s primary component becomes unusable. This could be for any number of reasons, such as maintenance downtime, errors, or hacks. Failovers are essentially a secondary component able to seamlessly take over the functions of a system at any time – essentially, to mimic the functions of the primary system.

What is an automated failover?

For applications and web services requiring high availability, for example, an automated failover cluster is a group of servers that work in the background to ensure services stay up and running even if a server fails.

Failovers for IT systems can be configured to operate either automatically or manually, and typically revolve around three major elements: power, network connectivity, and server capacity.

Automated failovers at the server level typically operate using a heartbeat system, which continually pings two connected servers to ensure the backup does not come online unless the connection is broken.

Types of failover:

Several types of network architecture failovers can be implemented, depending on the level of availability required:

  • Cold spare: Cold spares are manual failovers that require human intervention.
  • Hot spare/high availability: Automated failovers with a slight delay, so any failover is typically noticed by users.
  • Full redundancy: Automated failovers that immediately switch into failover mode.

Manual failovers, however, are often criticized for being too time-consuming and, like many manual processes, prone to human error.

That’s why manual failovers are never used for systems that require high availability. Automated failover processes run in the background and automatically synchronize data between primary and backup components, giving them the ability to step up and keep systems online at a moment’s notice.

Why Are Failovers Important?

Automated failovers aren’t just important for mission-critical systems – they’re absolutely essential. Without proper failovers, systems don’t have the redundancy or fault tolerance necessary to stay up and running in the wake of a major error.

Automated failovers are important for a variety of applications, including keeping databases online during system outages or maintenance without manual intervention, or running maintenance jobs without the need for human supervision. These failovers can also apply to any number of scenarios, including:

  • Devices: Some devices contain hardware or software triggers that deploy automated failovers if a component fails
  • Networks: A network failover can include any individual component, such as connections paths or storage devices.
  • Hosted database or web application: Failover allows multiple servers (local or cloud-based) to maintain their connection

Automated Failover for File Transfer

Another scenario where an automated failover is of great benefit is when sending files. In this case, having a provision in place to continue an IP-based transfer in the event of a network crash is key to keep data flowing.

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For example, MASV has a baked in automated failover in place with Multiconnect channel bonding. Multiconnect aggregates two or more sources of bandwidth into one powerful network for faster upload and download file transfer speeds (e.g. home Wi-Fi and a tethered phone with data hotspot). Each source of bandwidth is considered a failover; if one link goes down, MASV will automatically optimize for the remaining connections.

Automated retries

MASV also has resilience measure in place in the form of automatic retries. If there is a network interruption, MASV will automatically retry your transfer where it left off, relentlessly, until the transfer is completed. It means users don’t have to babysit their transfers — or worse, assume the transfer is successful, only to come back hours later to an error message.

Failover: Lessons Learned

A failover is a backup of IT infrastructure operations in the event the main system is out of commission, due to routine maintenance, an error, or a security attack. It’s a prime component in device, network, and server operations. Failovers can be performed manually or automatically — with an automated failover switching over to its backup the moment it detects any issues.

The great Canadian internet shutdown has opened many eyes to the concept (and benefit) of a failover. Rogers President and CEO, Tony Staffieri has vowed to increase redundancies in their network and systems as part of their three-step action plan post-outage. Still no word on what type of failovers Rogers has in place to begin with.

If you want to increase the reliability and resiliency of your IT network, it’s recommended your diversify your telecom portfolio; using different providers for your phone and internet. Although all-in-one phone, internet, and cable plans give you the best bang for your buck, they also lock you into one provider (with all their ups and downs).

For added reliability with your file transfers, MASV’s baked-in Multiconnect failover ensures your files keep moving if a network goes down; and our relentless retry protocol keeps sending your file request in the event of a network interruption. So, while we probably can’t help if one-quarter of the country’s internet connectivity goes down again, we can absolutely ensure your large file transfer has the best chance of arriving on time. Sign up today and get 100 GB for free.

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