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Massive Slack outage reveals the need for alternative office communications

If Slack (or your company’s preferred chat platform) goes down, do you have a backup plan?

Massive Slack outage reveals the need for alternative office communications
[Source Images: Jasmin Merdan/Getty]

Slack, the workplace chat tool that’s become the default way for workers at many companies to stay in touch with each other, reported an outage Tuesday morning.

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“Some customers are unable to load Slack,” the Salesforce-owned company reported. “We’re still actively investigating this issue, but we don’t have any new information to share at this time. We’ll keep you posted as soon as we have an update.”

And, as is tradition whenever Slack has problems, users logged on to social media to joke about how the service’s outage made it impossible for them to get anything done, except repeatedly checking to see if Slack was back up.

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It’s likely a bit of an exaggeration, since even in this era of remote work, where it’s not necessarily possible to tap a coworker on the shoulder with a quick question, most companies can switch over to communicating by email until Slack is back up, even if that’s less convenient than Slack-based chat.

But it’s true that many organizations use Slack as not only a chat tool but a de facto repository of shared knowledge and files, meaning that an outage can make it seriously hard for people to stay in touch and find past conversations they need to get things done. Of course, relying on any other single, cloud-hosted communication tool—whether that’s Slack alternatives like Microsoft Teams or Discord, or a company email provider that most people access through the web—would bring similar issues in the event of an outage.

To reduce this risk, companies can encourage employees to move information to some kind of repositories outside of chat tools, which could include a securely accessed company wiki, well-organized shared drives, or documents in Microsoft Office or Google Drive. That way not having access to files on Slack or any other chat tool won’t prevent people from being able to work.

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Ideally it’s best to have a plan in place for what to do if Slack or your other preferred communication tool fails, including ways for employees to quickly find ways to reach each other, whether that’s by email, text, or some other means. Just make sure that plan is accessible somewhere besides Slack.

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About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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