A few days ago it was the RIM network that suddenly went down, cutting people off from their emails and other BlackBerry goodness (which some saw as a good thing rather than a catastrophe) — and this morning it was Amazon’s S3 network that suddenly went offline. The network provides cheap remote storage for dozens of Web startups, including Twitter, as well as some larger companies. What users of those services wound up with for several hours was a host of 404 and other errors.

This is something I was just talking about on TVO’s The Agenda program (there’s more info here, if you’re interested), and I wrote another post about it after reading danah boyd’s account of someone who was suddenly cut off by Google. Ironically, in that post I mentioned how I was in the process of backing up my photos to Amazon’s S3 using JungleDisk. I also wrote a column for the Globe about the RIM outage (which is here) and the implications for cloud computing.

As a friend pointed out to me on Twitter this morning — when I described the S3 outage as “another caution flag in the cloud computing race” — these kinds of outages happen all the time with hosting providers (including my blog host) and other remote storage companies, not to mention Internet cables being severed under the ocean and so on. But every time it happens it’s another reminder about the need to maintain multiple redundant backups for the data you care about.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

7 Responses to “What happens when the cloud is down?”
  1. […] posts (on the Amazon outage): Rough Type, mathewingram.com/work, LinkFog, Data Center Knowledge, Web Worker Daily, […]

  2. We've gotten so good at reducing adoption friction, that we'll see a lot of this kind of thing. It just isn't possible to plan for it.

    More on my blog:




  3. I was under the impression that S3 was redundant. It claims to be decentralized.

  4. There is a very important question you have to ask yourself before deciding whether to use S3: what are you really looking for – remote storage, content delivery, or both. These are crucial to distinguish.

    What I observe is that most people treat Amazon S3 as a content delivery service. While this is not inherently wrong, one has to notice that S3 was especially designed to be a STORAGE service. S3 does not claim to be a CDN.

    The point is, since terabyte hard drives are affordable nowadays and internet traffic grows steadily, the stress goes much more on content delivery and network infrastructure rather than on storage. If you are not concerned about using remote storage, there are much better services especially suited for content delivery.

    SteadyOffload.com provides an innovative, subtle and convenient way to offload static content. The whole mechanism there is quite different from Amazon S3. Instead of permanently uploading your files to a third-party host, their cachebot crawls your site and mirrors the content in a temporary cache on their servers. Content remains stored on your server while it is being delivered from the SteadyOffload cache. The URL of the cached object on their server is dynamically generated at page loading time, very scrambled and is changing often, so you don’t have to worry about hotlinking. This means that there is an almost non-existent chance that the cached content gets exposed outside of your web application.

    It’s definitely worth trying because it’s not a storage service like S3 but exactly a service for offloading static content.

    Watch that:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-819391… (the video shows integration with WordPress, but it is integrable with any other webpage)

    Cost of bandwidth comes under $0.2 per GB – affordable, efficient and convenient. Looks like a startup but lures me very much. Definitely simpler and safer than Amazon S3.

  5. very nice post thank you guys for sharing with us! I totaly agree with you thats very sad to happen!

  6. very nice post thank you guys for sharing with us! I totaly agree with you thats very sad to happen!

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