Failover: The capability of switching to a redundant or standby computer server. Also a verb; sometimes spelled fail over: To switch to a standby server.
Last week’s BlackBerry outage affected an estimated 35 million global customers, including me*. An October 12 Talking Points Memo story quoted a service memo from BlackBerry parent company Research in Motion’s chief information officer, Robin Bienfait**:
Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to many of you and we will continue to keep you informed. – October 11, 21:30 (emphasis added).
When I tweeted that failover was new to me, my tech-speaking Twitter friends quickly set me straight:
I found no definitions for failover in standard dictionaries. Here are the Wiktionary definitions (via Wordnik):
- A means for ensuring high availability of some critical resource (such as a computer system), involving a parallel, backup system which is kept running at all times so that, upon detected failure of the primary system, processing can be automatically shifted over to the backup.
- An automatic switch to a secondary system on failure of the primary system.
As you can see, the verb “to failover” (or “to fail over”) hasn’t yet been included—but not because it hasn’t been used. “To failover” yields 140,000 Google hits. (“To fail over” produces more than 3 million results, but most of them use the “failover” spelling.)
The opposite of failover is failback: “the restoration of a system in a state of failover back to its original state (before the failure occurred).” (Wordnik).
I found a couple of dead trademarks with failover (Auto Failover and One-Click Failover) and one dead trademark with failback (Failback, from eNetica Solutions, Inc.). There’s an apparently live product called Simple Failover, from JH Software, with no record of a trademark application.
Comb-over fail = failover? From A Gallery of Ridiculously Bad Comb Overs.
* I use a BlackBerry, but I hardly depend on it. I wasn’t aware of the service problem until I read about it on Twitter, where someone (sorry, can’t remember who!) linked to the TPM story.
** Bienfait translates to “well made” or “well done.”