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The Pulse of the Internet

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You probably browse hundreds of sites every day, but have you ever thought about the logistics involved in transferring the data (or light) from your desk to, sometimes, half way around the world?   Probably not. However, that was the focus of an event I attended recently that was hosted by Dyn the DNS company.  Despite the fact that I live and breathe IT, I’d never really thought in any detail about the size of the internet and the way it can rapidly change, sometimes for the worse, until now.

Let’s start with scale. For this, I take you back to 1996 when there were approximately 16 million users of the internet.  However, with the introduction of devices outside of computing being connected, known as the Internet of Things, this figure has escalated to around 10 billion devices, and is reportedly growing by an additional 5 billion year on year.  In fact, anything from a fridge to a television can be connected to the internet these days and their traffic is routed around the globe by huge fibre optic cables laid by specialist cable laying ships – there’s even a map.

All of these billions of devices are sending 640TB of data (roughly 136,170 DVD’s) every minute.  With all of the data zipping around the globe things can and do go wrong, maybe caused by a simple mistake, a security breach, a natural disaster or even a major political event.  Whatever the cause, the result can either be a total loss of a critical service or the frustrating spinning wheel which we’re all too familiar with.

Data is regularly routed poorly

James Cowie chief scientist at Dyn explained for us, just some of the events that have crippled the internet in recent years, including:

  1. When hackers took over Google’s DNS Server on 17th March 2014 and intercepted a large portion of the world internet traffic.
  2. Japan’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake which was so severe it actually took Amazon offline.
  3. Internet providers purposely sending you half way around the world because it’s more cost effective for them.

Internet Paths

Measuring the Pulse

In order to ensure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is not sending your data to Brazil and back, or if a Russian hacker is stealing all of your data, Dyn have developed an amazing solution they simply call Internet Intelligence.  This ambitious solution involves 150 servers around the globe each taking a million samples of the current flow of the internet including the route and time taken.

Global Latency Map

Collating all of this information and providing it in near real-time enables a company to make informed decisions such as:

  1. Which ISP to select? Yes one maybe cheaper and even have “faster” connections, but if they are routing via India and back, you probably don’t want to use them.
  2. Where to put your Cloud storage – Amazon or Microsoft Azure? Azure is the better choice for speed.
  3. Which ISP will give the best route when opening a new office overseas?

For general business users of the internet, the main thing to take away from this article is to choose a high quality ISP. If the speeds you are experiencing are not what you expect you should have your IT support company run through traceroutes to check your ISP are not playing around with your internet paths.  However for businesses that are running multi-site websites or transferring data between global offices via the internet then you may want to trial Internet Intelligence and know exactly what is happening to your data as soon as it leaves your office.

Priority One – London IT Support



Jon Abbott

With more than 15 years experience researching, testing and evaluating the latest technologies, Jon is able to advise clients and readers on how to improve system efficiency and keep up with the latest technology.

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