“Can the Internet survive covid-19? Will we start having outages? As fragile as the Internet is, it wouldn't surprise me." - Logen

This is an outstanding question.

Let's sit back, just for a moment, and consider how the Internet really operates.

Starting at our home and working… outward.

In my home, I have a computer. Which requires fairly infrequent (but not non-existent) levels of maintencence to keep running.

That computer connects (wired or wirelessly) to my router. Which also requires at least some (though very infrequent) maintenance.

That router connects to a FIOS modem (your home might be DSL, Cable, etc.). That stinkin’ modem seems to need to be rebooted every time the winds change. Of course, this is a manual process.

That modem, in turn, connects outward to a hub connection point (of various types depending on the particulars of your service). That hub tends to have, what is called in the industry, “brain farts” every few weeks. Outages caused by such “brain farts” typically can be resolved quickly. A reboot here. A swapped out part there. Manual, but not typically time consuming.

That hub then connects to another hub. And another. Each requiring some level of manual maintenance to keep running.

Let's assume you're connecting to one specific server (say, to watch a video or read an article on a single website). Your connection must travel through all of the points we've described until it reaches the modem (of some sort) at the location of the destination server. All of the hardware at that location requires maintenance.

Which doesn't take into account the maintenance required (both hardware and software) to keep the webserver, which you are requesting content from, up an running. Any SysAdmin knows the pain of being the person “on call” when a critical server goes down in the middle of the night.

It happens. A lot. I think most folks would be surprised at the frequency of server outages that require someone to “push a button” (or something more intense). None of which even considers security patches, bug fixes, backups, hard drive failures, and about a million other things that need addressing – on a regular basis – to keep a single server up and going.

None of that even begins to consider the external dependencies required to connect to and use a server.

Using a domain name? Well, you'll need to be able to connect to your configured DNS server. Which is, itself, reliant on a huge number of other servers to keep the list of domain name -> IP addresses up to date.

Using SSL (yes, you are)? Well you'll not only need the server you are connecting to to have an up to date SSL certificate… but the server that issued that certificate will also need to be up and going.

Also, each “online service” tends to, in reality, be a delicately woven web of interconnected servers – each performing different tasks. Some in the same location. Some scattered across the globe.

And all of the infrastructure that we talked about earlier will need to be 100% operational between every one of those points.

Now.

Each individual part tends to have pretty good “up-time”. Meaning those servers (and such) are more online than offline. That's good.

But if every link in the chain has a small amount of manual maintenance to keep operational… and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of links in said chain… the odds of that chain breaking get higher and higher.

In a scenario where increasing numbers of people cannot actively work “on-site”, the odds of that chain falling apart becomes, if not “extremely high”… at least “quite possible.”

So.

Will the Internet survive the Corona virus?

Yes. Almost asuredly. At least significant portions of it.

But will there be outages?

Again. Almost asuredly. And, in all likelihood, they will be significant.

That's simply how complex, high maintenance systems work.

My recommendation? Make sure you have a lot of entertainment locally in an “off-line usable” state. Video files without DRM. Video games that don't require an active (or even intermittent) Internet connection. Might be time to dust off that old-school video game console and CD/Record collection.

Books and AM/FM Radio aren't bad, either. ;)

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