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AWS storage outage knocks US-hosted websites and cloud services offline

Cloud services giant suffers multi-hour outage that reportedly had a knock-on effect for 20% of the internet

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud storage service experienced technical difficulties in the US overnight, which had knock-on effects for a number of high-profile websites and service providers.

A number of organisations that rely on the company’s Simple Storage Service (S3) to store data, host websites and run their cloud-based services were hit by connectivity issues for several hours due to problems relating to the company’s US East-1 datacentre region in Virginia.

Those affected by the downtime include cloud-based collaboration service provider Box, online messaging service Slack, and web-connected device manufacturer Nest, while industry estimates suggest around 20% of the internet was affected.

At its peak, the issue even prevented AWS from updating users about the situation via its service status page.

At the time of writing, AWS has released little detail about the root cause of the problem, which resulted in users being presented with error messages while trying to use the service.

Computer Weekly contacted AWS for further details about the outage, and was directed by a company spokesperson to the AWS service status page for further information.

In the meantime, industry watchers have been quick to suggest that AWS customers could do more to protect themselves when outages occur. Shawn Moore, CTO of web experience platform Solodev, pointed to the number of its customers that were unaffected by the downtime.

Read more about cloud outages and downtime

This is because they run their services across multiple datacentre availability zones, which more users should be doing for disaster recovery purposes, said Moore.

“The difference is, the ones who have fully embraced Amazon’s design philosophy to have their website data distributed across multiple regions were prepared,” he said.

“This is a wake-up call for those hosted on AWS and other providers to take a deeper look at how their infrastructure is set up and emphasises the need for redundancy – a capability that AWS offers, but it is now being revealed how few were actually using.”

Matt Hodges-Long, managing director of UK-based business continuity provider Continuity Partner, shares this view, and said cloud users should never assume they’re immune to downtime.

“The likes of Amazon are resilient providers, generally, and probably more resilient than doing it yourself or using on-premise hosting, but there is a real concentration risk around these mega-providers, like AWS, Azure and Google, where if it does go wrong it takes down a lot of sites,” he said.

“But, really, every firm should assume and plan for outages and think about what they’re going to do if AWS falls over, because if you’re providing a service to your clients that is completely dependent on AWS and they go down, what are you going to do?”

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)