Amazon scrambles to fix Web Services outage

The problem affected tons of sites online, from publications such as Business Insider to platforms including Flipboard, Slack and Medium. Even the SEC was affected.


Thousands of websites and apps experienced loading issues Tuesday when Amazon Web Services, the largest public cloud provider, suffered a significant outage.

The average consumer might not be aware of Amazon’s cloud offering, its S3 tool provides the storage backbone for many websites’ images, video and databases.

Though outages like this are rare, their broad reach is significant due to the high volume of websites that rely on AWS. The websites affected in yesterday’s outage included Business Insider, Medium, Netflix, IFTTT, Slack, MailChimp, Airbnb, The Verge, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision, Flipboard and more.

The first news from the company came via tweet:

A message posted to the AWS Service Health Dashboard stated:

As of 1:49 PM PST, we are fully recovered for operations for adding new objects in S3, which was our last operation showing a high error rate. The Amazon S3 service is operating normally.

The outage began Tuesday around 9:35 a.m. PST. It took two hours for the company to update the Service Health Dashboard, which is hosted on AWS.

Techcrunch reported a timeline of information from Amazon as it worked to resolve the issue. Prior to the updates, Twitter users took to the platform in annoyance at the lack of information and how widespread the outage was.

Websites that use AWS reported a range of problems, from parts of sites not loading at all to some images not loading and severely slowed loading times.

The Guardian reported:

… If you’ve ever been told something is stored or run “in the cloud”, the likelihood is that it was in servers owned by Amazon – or by similar services provided by its two main competitors, Microsoft and Google.

When that model works, it works brilliantly, providing low barrier to entry for small firms needing an online presence, economies of scale for larger companies warning world-class hosting – and huge profits for Amazon itself. In the last year, thecompany has pulled in profit of $2.4bn overall, but AWS alone made a profit of $3.1bn (the missing billions are a result of how much money the company continues to lose in international sales).

When it doesn’t work, everything comes crashing down.

The last major AWS outage occurred in September 2015, when several users reported difficulty in watching Netflix.

The incident highlights the importance of keeping users apprised of the current crisis—even if your organization might not know how to fix it yet. It also underlines our dependency on cloud-based services, which can come to a hault in times such as these.

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