Fisher Plaza Fire Felt from Seattle to East Coast: Lessons from a Data Disaster

7/6/09Follow @gthuang

In case you missed it over the holiday, an electrical fire and power outage at Fisher Plaza near Seattle Center late on Thursday night disrupted a number of websites and services, including those of local tech companies Redfin, Survey Analytics, and Big Fish Games, as well as Microsoft’s Bing Travel site (formerly Farecast), Verizon’s DSL service in the Seattle area, and local television and radio stations including KOMO.

There were no injuries, and most operations were back to normal by the weekend, though Bing Travel was down until late Saturday morning. The news was reported by local and national outlets, including TechFlash, The Seattle Times, The Seattle P-I, and CNET.

Internet companies were directly affected as far away as Marlborough, MA-based Authorize.net (now owned by CyberSource), a credit-card service for online merchants that uses a data center at Fisher Plaza. And there was a ripple effect from there. Annette Tonti, the CEO of Rhode Island-based MoFuse, a network of build-it-yourself mobile sites, says her company’s service was disrupted on Friday because it uses Authorize.net to process credit cards. “The issue for us was getting customers signed up,” Tonti says. “However, we were not affected too long and everything appeared to be working fine by later in the day.”

“Companies should have servers at various physical locations, spread far apart, to keep isolated incidents like a fire from taking down a service,” says David Berube, MoFuse’s founder and chief architect. “I’m sure Authorize.net does have a redundant system, and their quick response to get service back up shows to me that they do have some sort of redundancies in place.”

Closer to home, there has been quite a lot of discussion about what went wrong, and how companies can better prepare for such outages, which seem rather inevitable. The cause of this particular fire is still under investigation.

Praerit Garg, co-founder of Symform, a data storage startup in Seattle, agrees it’s important … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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