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Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

By October 1, 2019 No Comments
Single point of failure network

A glitch or a venerability can pose a serious threat to systems networks. In the IT field, the treat from a single point of failure has been a cause of worry for engineers across the globe.

In simple words, a single point of failure or a SPOF is a situation when there is a malfunction or an implementation error at one point on the network. This leads to the failure of the entire network chain/web. This can stall operations and kill data transfer. In simple layman’s words, it’s a disruption in a network where if one system fails, all the other peripheral systems also fail.

How exactly?

Let’s put this to perspective. If there are five systems in a network. Four of those systems are wired to a system that acts as the data host. Here, the four systems depend on this system to feed it data for computations. If this single point of data is said to fail due to a technical error, then the other systems will also not be able to receive the data they need to function. Thus the malfunction of one has resulted at the end of all functions of the network.

To explain this, let’s take the example of a real-world problem. Imagine the service of a welder. He/she is very depended on their tool (The welding machine) to make sure the work happens without a hitch. One a day when the machine does not work or has a malfunction, then this machine is not a single point of failure to the network this is his job. This welder could be prepared for a situation like this one and keep spare parts or another machine. This shows that they are prepared in case of a threat. Even in everyday lives, a small hiccup can lead to a domino effect of failures. This is what exactly a SPOF is.

Where could this happen?

These can happen in many stages of the network. Some common points of concern are:

  • Hardware Malfunction

It is said to be the most basic point of failure in most network-related issues. A piece of hardware that is not functioning as per the requirements can cause the entire operations to stop. This can be due to power issues, backup failure, compatibility, storage shortage, etc.

  • Power Failure

As common as a problem as this could be, it can come in the way of all systems to halt. Most networks need a constant power source to function effectively. When supply is stopped even from one point on this, it could result in the standstill of the entire operations. This problem often affects companies that depend ONLY on the power grid for the working and fail to install backups.

  • ISP malfunction

In case of an internet outage from the provider’s end, there could be a threat to the network. Most networks are internet-based and this can be a huge problem if the ISP fails. A lot of systems depend on the internet for data transfer, cloud storage, or something as simple as communication. If there is a situation where the ISP fails, this can cause all the supporting limbs of the network to also not receive and send data.

  • Human Error

Some organizations are not big enough to set up a separate IT network management team. These responsibilities are usually dropped in the hands of one person on site. This makes one person responsible for all work such as setup data points, maintain connections, assure seamless transfer, etc. When all the knowledge of the network is placed in the hands of one person, you open the system to threats as this person now is a single failure point as well.

Is owning a firewall tool helpful to stop SPOFs?

As we would like to believe that having a secure layer should help reduce the threat of a SPOF, but on many occasions, it could be the exact opposite of that. Some firewalls such as those created to detect advanced threat (APT) or detect NIC failure can end up blocking some important data traffic that could be needed for a system function. This could be an odd problem to face, as you do not expect a system security application to cause glitches.

How to Prevent SPOF?

It is not a difficult task to set up some guidelines in place to prevent such a situation. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Get a reliable service provider

Make sure there is a group of people in charge of setting up and maintaining the entire IT services. A reliable service provider can go a long way in giving you the peace of mind you need. They can also assist you in case of a failure and have quick solutions to the many issues that may come up.

  • Backup power

An organization that is depended on the government’s supply of power, can risk a lot. Always have sufficient power backups in the form of generators or inverters to fuel your systems in case the grid power is to malfunction due do natural or technical causes.

  • Seal off any breaches

It is essential to maintain a secure storage line for your data to avoid any loss. You also need to make sure to use the appropriate firewall. Because as we discussed, an incompatible firewall can cause major system breakdown. When it comes to system security, it is more than just two-point-verifications and passwords.

  • Flawless Internet

There is no such assurance that your service provider will give you constant and un-interrupted internet supply. It is a good practice to set up a secondary internet network for your main host systems in case your ISP fails.

Conclusion

When setting up an organization that is dependent on constant data circulation, one must take special care to make sure there is no violation in the network. It will help to hire an able systems architect to set up your network. Also, set up a routine to constantly add maintenance to the network to make sure SFOF is not a problem ever.

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