GOV.UK government services portal suffers outage

The GOV.UK central government services portal was unavailable for almost an hour yesterday morning as a result of a bug introduced by a service provider, and a failure to have back-up systems in place to ensure continuity.

The 45-minute outage was caused following a standard software update by Fastly, a content delivery network (CDN), which introduced a bug that brought down 85% of its global users, including GOV.UK as well as other organisations like the White House, Reddit and The Guardian.

A (functioning) CDN enables fast delivery of internet content by caching content at the network edge, which improves web site performance. Many content rich web sites struggle to have their performance needs met by traditional hosting services, which is why they opt for CDNs.

GOV.UK ran a backup CDN on Amazon’s CloudFront service, but this required manual intervention to switch to the backup. The BBC's web sites were unaffected by the outage, despite being supported by the same CDN as GOV.UK, because it had back-up systems in place - calling into question the level of continuity planning for GOV.UK.

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