Having trouble streaming Disney+? Amazon or its products like Alexa or Ring security cameras? Tinder? Venmo? What’s up with your Roomba?
Websites and applications using Amazon Web Services were knocked offline on Tuesday by another outage. Amazon says it is working on the problem.
What can we all do? Obviously, get used to it.
Such outages, which wreak havoc in our everyday lives, are the norm these days.
With more data and services moving online between the US and a growing network of computer hubs around the world, glitches and mechanical failures will cause problems — or worse, from bad actors like hackers and ransomware parts.
Still, we continue to embrace an increasingly digital life with more functionality on mobile devices – Apple puts driver’s licenses, as well as home and car keys, in iPhones. And most of us don’t really think about or understand the technology behind it.
And our connected existence is not as strong, reliable and secure as you might think. Just as subways can run slower than expected or trains can derail, so can incidents on an information highway.
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“This is a scary reminder of the double-edged sword around digital transformation,” said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “It’s only a few dominoes that can shut everything down.”
Amazon Web Services provides cloud computing services to a wide range of companies as well as government agencies and colleges and universities.
Amazon said it is “actively working toward recovery.” It did not say what caused the power cut on the east coast that began midday on Tuesday.
Over the years, we expect Netflix to deliver “True Story” almost instantly with a single click.
“We just believe that all this stuff is here all the time. I think the advocates of our digital lives make us feel like it’s always there,” said Shelley Palmer, CEO of The Palmer Group, a tech strategist. Advisory Group, and author of “Blockchain – Cryptocurrency, NFTs and Smart Contracts: An Executive Guide to the World of Decentralized Finance.”
As Palmer said, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has “reduced every ounce of friction you buy from something. Mark Zuckerberg has reduced every ounce of friction about what you post on a social network.” “People think about this experience only when it’s gone.”
How does internet shutdown happen?
Amazon Web Services’ network has redundancy, but problems can arise. An AWS outage in November 2020 shut down the video game “League of Legends” and Sirius XM satellite radio; It also affected Roku and Amazon’s Ring doorbell. AWS had similar outages in 2015 and 2017.
“I think this accident happens so often, when it happens it’s news,” Palmer said. “The goal here is speed. … You want to watch your video instantly with the push of a button. You want everything to work beautifully and smoothly. The way you do it is that you’re as good as possible. That’s what a content delivery network does.”
It all works as it should more than 99% of the time. How much more would it cost a company to improve it to almost 100%? Maybe too much, Palmer said.
“Everyone has some way of calculating the high availability of services,” he said. For example, banks should strive to achieve 100% as much as possible, Palmer said. But if you’re delivering a movie or you’re a social network where the ‘Like’ button has to work, seriously, how important is that?
While the scale and scope of the outage was “jaw-dropping,” Ives said, the damage appeared to be “inherent.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are heavily reliant on the cloud and on certain providers from a data center perspective,” he said. “The concern is what will happen next time. And bad actors and malicious attackers have certainly taken note” of outages and assessing potential vulnerabilities, Ives said.
What can you do?
Each of us should use the outage to reflect on our situation. Think about how often online outages can affect you. Connectivity programs like Microsoft Teams and Slack have been hit hard recently. So have social networks like Facebook and Instagram. (Do you have phone numbers or emails for co-workers, friends, or family who may need to contact you during downtime?)
Many of us store personal files in the cloud, and those networks, such as Google Cloud and Apple’s iCloud, can also be blocked. There are several ways you can save important files, photos, and other data. In addition to storing them in the cloud, keep them on an external drive or USB drive.
If you have more than one computer, keep copies on both devices in case one fails. And consider encrypting the files for added security.
This can come in handy when you fall prey to ransomware or malware, as major fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS SA recently did. “It’s all the same thing,” Palmer said. “These are learning moments about how vulnerable we are … and how deeply we have come to trust our connectivity and how out of control we really are.”