When Good Internet Goes Bad
If you use sites like Slack, Imgur, Medium, Huffington Post, or even Apple, you might have noticed the major hiccup last week that left them running improperly or not loading altogether. There’s a lot of technical jargon that explains exactly why, but we’ll make it simple: Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing and storage arm, bugged out and affected up to 100,000 sites, some which experienced loading and delivery issues and others which went offline completely.
When we think of Amazon, we think of the retail powerhouse. However, Amazon has its fingers in many pies, and one of those pies happens to be providing servers, storage space, databases, network connectivity, hosting and lots more to companies in need of reliable web service. As with anything the company touches, they’ve become a go-to source for thousands of businesses, large and small. That’s understandable, given Amazon’s long history of being at the technological forefront of basically everything, but this incident reveals a bigger issue. Amazon reports that the glitch that caused this major outage occurred in a single data center in Virginia. Because of this one localized bug, huge swaths of the internet had a bad day.
For many businesses, this sort of connectivity issue is anything but a minor problem. Companies that see large returns from online sales and services could really feel the sting of losing almost a day’s worth of sales. This is the trouble with entrusting your hosting and storage services to such a giant — they’re serving so many other people across so many different facilities that it’s difficult to keep any sort of direct control over the situation. If your site hosted through AWS goes down, who exactly do you call? Do you know which facility your servers are housed in?
Granted with Amazon’s extensive reach and manpower, they were able to remedy the issue within a day, but even so that’s multiple hours of inaccessibility. With such an enormous chunk of the internet under their control, it’s concerning that a single glitch in a single datacenter can bring so many sites down. For reference, a 2016 Gartner study revealed that 31% of the global cloud market is controlled by AWS. That’s nearly a third! It’s amazing how rarely we stop to consider how much we rely on the internet until it suddenly becomes inaccessible.
So, is there anything you can do to prevent issues like this in the future? Unlikely. As our technology expands, so to do the weaknesses we have to account for. When a single entity holds such a huge share of the global cloud market, it becomes more likely that a hiccup on their end could directly affect you and your business. It might be prudent to consider obtaining your hosting, storage and web services from a smaller business that isn’t spread so thin, and that you can contact directly with issues.
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