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As a new school year begins, Zoom endures a 4-hour outage

August 24, 2020, 6:03 PM UTC

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

On a day when white-collar workers returned to work and school-age children logged on for a new, virtual school year, Zoom—the popular videoconferencing software—experienced a service outage that has since been resolved. (You can see the operational status of the cloud-based tool here.)

“We have resolved the issue causing users to be unable to start and join Zoom Meetings and Webinars,” the San Jose company wrote at 9:37 a.m. PT. “Users are now also able to sign up for paid accounts, upgrade, and manage their service on the Zoom website. We are currently monitoring to ensure that these services are operational.”

Reports of issues with Zoom began before 6 a.m. PT, 9 a.m. ET—prime time for users on the U.S. East Coast. People were unable to visit the company’s website at Zoom.us and unable to start and join virtual meetings and webinars.

The company’s engineers identified the problem within an hour and began deploying a fix within two. In all, the service was down for about three hours.

But that’s a long time for thousands of school-age children—let alone their instructors—to stay focused.

“First Day of School for Thousands and Zoom Gets Glitchy,” screamed one Associated Press headline.

“Triad schools respond to nationwide Zoom outage,” read another from local North Carolina news outlet WFMY.

“Zoom outage kicks metro Atlanta students offline on first day of school,” states a third from CBS 46, a Georgia broadcast channel.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic set in earlier this year, many parents and instructors alike fretted that the virtual experience would stunt children’s emotional and social growth and force a complete rethink of the American education system.

“All across the world, students and parents are involved in a vast cyber-education experiment,” writes Lizzie Widdicombe in a prescient New Yorker item from April titled “The Great Zoom-School Experiment.” It’s a project not without substantial consternation, she adds: “Day-care centers were doing sing-alongs and circle time via video chat. Parents were moonlighting as technical assistants and home-school instructors. (Many were Tweeting bleak updates: ‘All control has been lost. Please send help’; ‘Fed the math homework to the dog myself’; ‘Day 6(?) of #homeschooling and the four year old has started saying “yes, master” to my every instruction.’)”

All are concerns worthy of consideration, of course. But they’re moot if school is suddenly unavailable and offline.

For Zoom’s part, the fast-growing company—its stock started the year trading at $70 and is now hovering near $300, valuing it at more than $79 billion, or almost twice as much as automaker General Motors—has been plowing resources and attention into network capacity and security.

But there’s nothing like a first day of school.

“We were humbled by the accelerated adoption of the Zoom platform around the globe in Q1,” the company’s chief executive, Eric Yuan, said following the company’s latest earnings report in June. “The COVID-19 crisis has driven higher demand for distributed, face-to-face interactions and collaboration using Zoom.”