It’s always bad to have a system outage, but several of this quarter’s notable crashes could not have come at a worse time. Retail shoppers, bitcoin traders, and video gamers were all victims of Q4’s notable downtime incidents.
From malware to massive demand surges, 2017 experienced a huge number of system outages that affected a wide range of business, governmental, and private segments. Some of the crashes we saw in the last quarter of the year were notably exasperating because anyone with an interest in these segments should have seen trouble coming.
Retail outages were among Q4’s most devastating. When Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s shoppers can’t buy the products they want, or use the products they have bought, money and reputation go out the window. Similarly, with so much recent bitcoin trading, cryptocurrency exchanges had enough warning to upgrade their systems—but a few obviously did not. We also saw various system outages at companies that seem to suffer outages on a regular basis. Let’s just hope somebody put a quality disaster recovery plan under the Christmas tree for them this year.
Keep reading to see our list of the top seven outages of Q4 2017.
1. Slack Is Down: Worldwide Outage Means You Can Take the Night Off
When: October 31, 2017
Duration: 3 hours
What Happened: Millions of users were left without access to their workplace messaging service when Slack experienced a worldwide failure. Slack’s app is an important resource for intercompany communication and is used by 6 million people every day. For companies that rely on Slack for business communications and file transfers, the outage meant confusion as employees needed to switch to alternate means. Although the crash lasted for a few hours, Slack did not publicize the cause. On the plus side, they kept users updated with a constant stream of tweets—setting them apart from many other firms that leave people hanging (see WhatsApp section below).
@slack is down and I just tried to slack my team to tell them slack was down. Dammit. *trying to remember how to email*
— Gayla Worrell (@gaylaworrell) October 31, 2017
2. Black Friday Panic at Macy’s: People Report Credit Card System Outage
When: November 24, 2017
Duration: 1 day
What Happened: In a repetition of last year’s Black Friday outage, Macy’s payment processing system crashed during one of the most important retail shopping days of the year. It was cash only for many of Macy’s customers, who were otherwise unable to pay using either credit or debit cards, while online customers were left without options. Although the company explained that overcapacity was to blame, Macy’s experienced a similar problem last year, hinting that this outage was foreseeable and preventable. The situation only exacerbates Macy’s poor performance, marked by 11 consecutive quarters of lower revenue. Not to be outdone, both Lowe’s and J.Crew also suffered from crashes during this very busy shopping season.
@Macys no signage to tell customers that your machines are down for every credit card besides Macy’s? Dishonest and bad business. Lost some longtime customers today in what could of been solved by COMMUNICATION to your customers.
— Elizabeth Porter (@Porte049) November 24, 2017
3. Fidelity Offers Reparations to Customers After Web Outage
When: November 29, 2017
Duration: 2+ hours
What Happened: Technical issues caused the online trading system at Fidelity Investments to stop functioning for more than two hours, resulting in untold client losses due to missed trades. Fidelity Investments tried to compensate its customers with free trades, waived commissions, and other measures which will result in a measurable financial loss for the company. In addition to failure of the online trading platform, users were unable to view their whole portfolio, and could not conduct various offline transactions due to lack of information. Fidelity Investments is a major online brokerage firm, and thousands of its clients rely on its online services to conduct their business.
Entire @Fidelity system down in AM. Web, App didn’t WORK! Phones were jammed too. This started at opening Bell until 10:15am. No message telling clients there was an issue! Horrific! Customer Service after holding 25 min were rude.
— Alley Scoop (@Alley_Scoop) November 29, 2017
4. Reddit Down: Site Breaks With Pages Unable to Load Amid Mystery Outage
When: December 6, 2017
Duration: ½ hour
What Happened: When one of the world’s biggest and most popular websites went down, people around the world freaked out. Reddit outages have been happening rather frequently, so their fast response time might indicate that they are learning to deal with whatever ails them. The previous crash was on November 29th and took an hour to fix. These two crashes do not seem that bad at first glance. But because Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website, it channels a lot of traffic to other websites, and its failures have a snowball effect. Reddit did not identify the cause of the trouble.
— Alex Carter (@trepidhickory) December 6, 2017
5. Bitcoin Hits $16K Before Major Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase Crashes
When: December 7, 2017
Duration: 1 hour
What Happened: Bitcoin trading was forced to a halt by the crash of Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States, due to high volume. The outage ended a 24-hour, $3,000 increase in value for bitcoin shares. The popularity of bitcoin suggests that more crashes are on their way. As trading volume increases, exchanges need to upgrade their hardware, which can lead to temporary outages. Similarly, upgrades can be an opportunity for hackers to attack a system, yet another challenge for the bitcoin market, where theft, cyberattacks, and technical problems can lead to rapid drops in value. Other bitcoin marketplaces, such as Nicehash and Bithumb, have also suffered from recent attacks and failures.
There is more speculation in Bitcoin from people who cannot explain how it works than there is panic buying on Coinbase.
— David Oliver Doswell (@davidodoswell) December 7, 2017
6. Sorry, New Switch Owners: Nintendo’s eShop Is Offline
When: December 25, 2017
Duration: 3+ days
What Happened: It seems that the elves at Nintendo have a hard time keeping up when Santa delivers a lot of Nintendo gaming consoles. Starting on Christmas day, the sheer volume of customers activating devices and opening Nintendo accounts led to a global outage for the whole Nintendo network. Although most Nintendo services soon resumed, the company’s eShop stayed offline for a while, and complaints were still being received after three days. The outage meant that a lot of excited gamers could not play Nintendo 3DS or Wii U bundles or enjoy post-Christmas eShop sales. In addition, the launch of Pokémon Bank and Poké Transporter apps were put on hold and missed their December 27th activation date. Similar problems occurred at PlayStation and Xbox Live.
— Anshel Sag (@anshelsag) December 25, 2017
7. WhatsApp Down: Messaging Service Apologises After New Year Outage
When: December 31, 2017
Duration: 2 hours
What Happened: This is the third consecutive quarter for WhatsApp crashes (insert “WhatsDown” joke here). As midnight began to strike around the world, revelers congratulated each other through the app, which soon became overloaded (it is hard to imagine a less convenient time for this to have happened). Users found themselves in the dark, and not just because it was midnight, as the company did not provide any explanation for the outage or when it would be resolved. This incident follows yet another outage which occurred on November 3rd. That event was much shorter, and was caused by a software bug, instead of the more common server crash or virus attack. For WhatsApp’s 1.2 billion users, and particularly those for whom WhatsApp is a main communications medium, outages can be more than a small annoyance.
— Mark (@MarkMC90) December 31, 2017