The Cost of Silence: Top 10 Most Expensive Downtime Incidents in History

Downtime in IT systems can be more than just a temporary inconvenience; it can lead to catastrophic financial losses and long-lasting reputational damage. Throughout history, several high-profile companies have experienced such crippling downtime incidents, leading to staggering costs. In this blog, we’ll explore the top 10 most expensive downtime incidents, underscoring the critical importance of robust IT infrastructure and proactive disaster recovery planning.

1. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Outage, 2017:

The 2017 AWS outage was a wake-up call for many, showcasing the vulnerabilities of cloud dependency. The four-hour outage of the world’s largest cloud services provider impacted countless businesses, including large corporations like Netflix and Airbnb, resulting in an estimated total loss of $150 million.

2. Delta Air Lines, 2016:

A computer outage caused by a power failure at Delta led to the cancellation of over 2,000 flights over three days. The incident cost the airline an estimated $150 million in lost revenue and compensation expenses.

3. British Airways IT Failure, 2017:

A major IT system failure at British Airways, caused by a power supply issue, resulted in the cancellation of 726 flights over a busy holiday weekend. The incident cost the airline roughly $112 million in compensation and lost revenue.

4. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Outage, 2021:

In 2021, Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, experienced a six-hour global outage due to a configuration error. This downtime resulted in an estimated loss of about $100 million in ad revenue.

5. JPMorgan Chase, 2010:

The banking giant suffered a three-day online banking outage affecting over 16 million customers. The incident, caused by a technical problem during a database update, reportedly cost the bank millions in customer refunds and reputational damage.

6. Sony PlayStation Network, 2011:

Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered a massive security breach followed by a 23-day outage. The incident, affecting 77 million user accounts, cost Sony an estimated $171 million in data theft and network repairs.

7. Target Point of Sale Failure, 2019:

A nationwide outage at Target’s point-of-sale systems led to a two-day inability to process transactions, resulting in significant sales losses and a hit to the retailer’s reputation. The exact financial cost was not disclosed but was estimated to be in the tens of millions.

8. eBay Outage, 2014:

A technical glitch caused eBay’s website to go down globally for several hours, affecting millions of users. The incident was estimated to have cost the company around $5 million in lost sales and compensation.

9. Knight Capital Group Trading Disaster, 2012:

A software glitch in Knight Capital’s trading algorithms led to a loss of $440 million in just 45 minutes, nearly bankrupting the firm and highlighting the risks of automated, high-frequency trading.

10. BlackBerry Service Outage, 2011:

A three-day global service outage of BlackBerry devices affected millions of users and led to a significant loss of consumer trust. The company offered $100 worth of free apps to affected users, but the damage to its reputation was much more costly.


These incidents illustrate the enormous financial and reputational risks associated with IT downtime. They serve as a stark reminder of the importance of investing in reliable, secure, and resilient IT infrastructure and having a robust disaster recovery plan in place.

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