Amazon Web Services, the Internet of Things, and Diversification

Amazon Web Services logo on the smartphone screen. Rostov-on-Don, Russia. 15 February 2021

Did you get locked out of your house this week? Or were you unable to control your smart lighting? As some say, progress has a price. Updating your otherwise mechanical devices and tools to internet-connected smart devices comes with risks. It’s a risk that is generally weighed against the convenience.

But what about those people and companies this week that lost access to their online data? Or to their website’s core functionality? Or even those people expecting an Amazon package on Tuesday but didn’t get it until Thursday?  There’s no “offline” way to run a website. And in 2021, it’s unrealistic to run logistics and delivery offline, too.

Well, if any of this happened to you or someone you know this week, chances are you’re an Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer or user.

Nearly one third of the global cloud marketplace is controlled by Amazon with their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) via Amazon Web Services. That’s right, the e-commerce giant you associate with Prime Deals and branded, blue vans is also the world’s biggest player in data and website hosting.

These are not just mom-and-pop e-commerce stores. Vanguard, the financial institution, is a customer of AWS. So is Snapchat. And Verizon. Even Disney+ is hosted with AWS. And that doesn’t include all of Amazon and its subsidiaries, everything from their internal logistics systems and e-commerce website to Audible to The Washington Post.

So, naturally, as such a massive player in platform and data hosting, a great number of online services and websites were either hindered or shut down completely when Amazon Web Services experienced a widespread outage starting this week.

The company reported on Tuesday, “We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region.” Of course, the issue was much bigger than this might suggest. Roombas stopped working, Ring cameras went offline, Disney+ couldn’t stream, there were no matches to be made on Tinder. Amazon’s own internal applications went down, causing chaos that some internal sources claim may affect their ability to keep with Christmas shopping.

Such a crippling outage attracted a great deal of criticism, particularly from competitor Oracle and CEO Larry Ellison, who boasted that Oracle’s cloud “never, ever goes down.”

Whether with AWS, Oracle, Azure, or whoever else, it’s perfectly reasonable to host a production environment with a single provider. More importantly, and specific to this entire debacle, is the issue of relying on the same provider for production environments and disaster recovery efforts.

As many businesses found out this week, if you host your production environment and your backups and disaster recovery paths in the same place exclusively, you’re out of luck. And like, really out of luck. There’s nothing you can do about it. Your system will go down, and you will be at the whims of your provider and their timeline to get you back online.

This is why it is essential to diversify your backups and implement a holistic, exhaustive disaster recovery plan that considers every possibility and every avenue to keep you online and reduce any downtime to a minimum.

If you experienced any downtime this week due to the AWS outage, or if you’re worried that your backup and disaster recovery plan isn’t thorough enough, contact Tigunia to evaluate and discuss it.

UPDATE: Amazon has released their event summary and attributed the outage to an increase in traffic.

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