When the Cloud is Out of Order, Are You?

Portions of Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3, one of the world’s largest computing and storage companies, went offline Tuesday afternoon, impacting millions of companies across the world.

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AWS provides cloud-based storage and web services for organizations looking for a virtual environment as opposed to the physical hardware infrastructure of on-premise solutions. For example, a post- production organization might store its videos, images or databases on an AWS server to be accessed, transcoded, and distributed via the Internet.

Organizations that use AWS include Adobe Systems, Airbnb, Netflix, Slacker, SmugMug, Spotify, Yelp, and many more. While not all of these organizations were affected by the outage, some experienced varying degrees of operational impact, from slowdowns to full-site inoperability.

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The outage appears to have begun around 12:35 p.m. ET, according to Catchpoint Systems, a digital experience monitoring company, and lasted over four hours. It was centered in Amazon Web Services’ S3 storage system on the East coast of the U.S.

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In a USA Today article on the topic, a very important concept for anyone going to the cloud was brought to light by the planning and high data availability needs of one affected AWS user.

“As our business is in bamboo plants, pictures are a very important part of selling our product online. We use Amazon S3 to store and distribute our website images. When Amazon’s servers went down, so did the majority of our website,” said Daniel Mullaly, chief technology officer of Lewis Bamboo, a small, family-owned bamboo nursery in Oakman, Alabama. “Thankfully we also store the images locally and I was able to serve the images directly from our server instead,” he said.

For any organization looking to go to the cloud, or one who is already deeply rooted in the cloud, it is important that an on-premise copy be kept for a few key reasons. Ideally, this copy should be kept on tape, which is reliable, inexpensive and has a shelf life of more than 30 years.

First and foremost, maintaining a local copy of data allows organizations to switch cloud vendors should their prices rise, quality of support fall, or execution of Service Level Agreement (SLA) be missed. By keeping a local copy of data, organizations can sustain the deletion of cloud data sets when a contract expires with no additional cost for restore or bandwidth. Businesses can simply move the local data set to the new cloud provider. It’s also a compelling insurance policy should the cloud provider go out of business or suffer their own catastrophic loss via natural disaster or cyber-attack.

Cyber-attack is the second reason for keeping a local copy of data. Cyber-attacks are becoming more and more common. From “ransomware” that encrypts disk-based data and demands payment, to international attacks on commercial organizations such as Sony Pictures, any data resting on disk that is accessible is vulnerable. As the majority of cloud facilities store data on inexpensive disk, this data is vulnerable to attack. The “genetic diversity” offered by having two wholly different types of media protecting your data gives better assurance that your data will survive such attack. Malware aimed at disk storage cannot penetrate tape storage.

And finally we come full circle to data availability. When a major cloud provider goes down and thousands of organizations operations are impacted, take the advice of Lewis Bamboo and utilize a local copy of your data so that day-to day-operations are not impacted.

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