Major factors in assuring long lifetime and fail-safe operation in optical communications networks are reviewed in this paper. Reliable functionality to design specifications, complexity of implementation, and cost are the most critical issues. As economics is the driving force to set the goals as well as priorities for the design, development, safe operation, and maintenance schedules of reliable networks, a balance is sought between the degree of reliability enhancement, cost, and acceptable outage of services. Protecting both the link and the network with high reliability components, hardware duplication, and diversity routing can ensure the best network availability. Case examples include both fiber optic and lasercom systems. Also, the state-of-the-art reliability of photonics in space environment is presented.