The Most Recent Amazon Outage Exposes the Dark Side of the Cloud

Science & Tech / Web Culture

The Most Recent Amazon Outage Exposes the Dark Side of the Cloud

By: Lauren Saccone

Cloud technology has been hailed by many as the wave of the future. Enormous amounts of data are loaded online and stored at remote locations. When users want to access the information, they simply use the Internet, meaning they can work from any location. The advantages are numerous, leading many companies to rely on it for their data storage. But what happens when the system breaks down? Amazon learned that first-hand the other as their cloud service went out, leading numerous websites high and dry.

Amazon’s premier Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service began to experiences outages Monday morning. As technicians scrambled to solve the problem, sites that rely on EC2 to handle thier online services began to suffer. Foursquare, Turntable.fm, Reddit, and Minecraft were just a few of the sites that went down as a result.

This isn’t the first time Amazon’s cloud service has gone down, resulting in outages of high-profile sites. Earlier this year Netflix, Instragram, and Pinterest all went dark when Amazon’s cloud proved unreliable. This inability to keep systems up and running smoothly is for some a cause of serious concern.

“As long as they’ve been selling cloud, you would think they would be one of the more stable cloud services,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research in an interview with NewsFactor. “If Amazon is going to invest anywhere, they should invest to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Unfortunately for cloud users, the law of averages indicates that another outage is more than likely. The incident on Monday marks Amazon’s fifth major outage in the past 18 months. And considering Amazon’s history and experience with cloud technology, it doesn’t bode well for other (and smaller) cloud services.

Outages and loss of data aren’t the only concerns for those who choose to rely on cloud technology. Loading all your information online in a supposedly safe place has attracted the attention of hackers intent on cracking security codes.

In August, Dropbox, one of the major online data storage sites, admitted to a security breach. A third party managed to access user names and passwords as Dropbox worked to alert its customers. While Dropbox customers were assured that security measures have been tightened, the incident only served to accentuate some of the risks of relying on cloud technology.

So does the Amazon outage mean people are going to give up on cloud? It’s extremely unlikely. For all the security risks and irritating website blackouts, it’s still an extremely useful tool. And Amazon was able to recover quickly, with most sites up and running smoothly a matter of hours after the crash occurred.

Like it or not, most companies are turning to cloud for the future. It reduces overhead, makes it far easier to access information, and is a fairly streamlined system – when it’s running properly. But as companies make the movie to cloud, the growing pains have the potential to be extremely unpleasant for websites and consumers alike.

“Ultimately, staying safe in the cloud is a matter of trust,” explains Damian Bramanis, director of Advisory Services for Sentinus, a company devoted to cloud security. “It’s important to trust your cloud vendor at the best of times, but it’s critical in the face of major problems.”

After this recent spate of outages, Amazon is going to have to work to regain its user’s trust – and work out some of the kinks in their cloud system.

[Pic via Flickr - Dr. Gianluigi "Zane" Zanettini]

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