After a major outage of a storage service operated by Amazon Web Services on Tuesday, 54 of the top 100 e-commerce retailers’ web sites suffered slow loading times for several hours; Express, Lululemon, and One Kings Lane were knocked entirely off line, according to web monitoring company Apica, via Business Insider.
The outage to AWS’ S3 cloud storage service lasted around four hours, but affected some web sites for as long as 11 hours. Amazon has yet to offer an explanation for what happened.
Notably, Amazon’s flagship site and affiliate sites were not affected by the outages, and neither were the sites of several big-name brands and retailers, including Apple, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Costco and Newegg, Apica told Business Insider.
Apica's analysis of this disruption offered a lot of details for retailers to obsess over as they consider their future hosting needs. Most of the top retailer sites affected, including Target, Nordstrom, the Disney store and others, experienced declines of 20% or more in site performance, with their load times taking much longer than usual.
Ironically, Amazon's sites were not disrupted at all — but it's no coincidence. Like many very large companies, and possibly like some of the other retailers that were not affected by the outage, redundancy is a key part of Amazon's strategy for its own sites. It spreads its e-commerce storage needs across multiple regions, storage sites and services. That might be something that retailers affected by the outage will want to look into, as one of the main benefits of using cloud storage and services is supposed to be the ability to avoid being affected by disasters that strike one specific location, region or service. Remember: redundancy.
Amazon Web Services has become a major revenue contributor to Amazon, and has helped introduce many companies to the cloud, to the point where they have become extremely reliant on it. While its reliability as a cloud provider has been questioned at times, its record of reliability reportedly has improved in recent years. There are many regional cloud providers out there, and for retailers, going with Amazon might seem like the easiest and safest decision, despite the fact that it's a competitor on other levels.
This week's outage doesn't necessarily mean Amazon Web Services is unreliable, but it should be a reminder that retailers need to constantly evaluate the state of their cloud-hosted assets and functions, and may want to be careful about putting all of their e-commerce eggs in one cloud basket.