Friday, November 2, 2012

Have social networking services become one of the vital services which need to be maintained through natural disasters

Luckily I was nowhere near the path of the destructive storm Sandy. However, I have many relatives and work collagues who were in the danger zone so I was anxiously looking at various news sources to find out what was happening. One factor I noticed was that people seemed to update their social network straight away even when they didn't have many essential services such as elctric power, and heating.

I suppose that this is not surprising since social networks are a very efficient way of getting out the message to as many concerned relatives and friends. It is also a testament to the resilience of some of the infrastructure. Since the people involved didn't have electric power they typically sent the update via their smartphone - the cell phone network is inherently quite resilient since if individual cell towers are out of action your cell phone will automatically connect to any other available cell tower that is still working. In addition the social networking sites typically use a range of servers around the world with automatic fail-over when any individual data centre is off line. This meant that the service could be resilient even when an entire region is knocked off the network.

I think that authorities will have to consider social networks as a key part of their disaster recovery plans.

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