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Amazon Incident Shows Limits of Cloud Storage

A power outage led to data loss for an Amazon AWS location.


Cloud data storage has become increasingly commonplace for businesses. The advantages are manifest — reduced cost, reduced hassle, and usually a higher quality of service. Many corporate clients, for instance, have availed themselves of Amazon’s Elastic Block Store, which offers block-level storage volumes that can be attached as storage to the company’s EC2 virtual machine instances.

But cloud storage does pose certain unique problems as well. The most well-known issues center on security and privacy. Many high-profile hacking incidents have occurred in recent years, which resulted in the loss of sensitive data from companies and government agencies. However, power loss and data loss are also a matter of concern. This fact was recently brought into relief by a recent power outage at Amazon AWS, which resulted in the loss of important data for many clients.

Lights Out for Amazon

On August 31, 2019, a West Virginia-based Amazon AWS US-EAST-1 datacenter was struck by a power outage. The backup generators kicked in, but began to fail about an hour and a half later. 7.5% of Amazon’s data storage units became unavailable for several hours. Power was restored by early the next morning, and by noon most of the data storage had been restored. However, hardware damage caused by the outage left much of the data unrecoverable.

Amazon customers complained that the company did not respond swiftly enough to the incident. One client, noting that Amazon took four days to tell them about the outage, sarcastically cautioned others on Twitter, “Reminder: The cloud is just a computer in Reston with a bad power supply.” The same client noted that after days of receiving formulaic evasion from the internet giant, they were finally informed that the data could not be recovered.

This particular client managed to avoid losing data permanently because they had backed up the data, rendering the experience a fantastic nuisance. But for those who had not backed up their data elsewhere, if they lost any crucial enough records, the experience was catastrophic. The whole incident is a lesson in redundancy and a reminder that companies who store data in the cloud need a second back up strategy!

Taking Precautions with Backups

Although companies like Amazon ABS like to boast that their failure rates are .1%-.2%, they also try to include language that hedges against indemnity. As it says in the company’s terms of service, “We have no liability whatsoever for any damages, liabilities, losses… or any other consequences…” Amazon isn’t alone, either. Other storage providers such as Dropbox have similar language in their terms of service.

Companies that store data in the cloud need to be aware of these risks. If they choose to invest in a secondary cloud provider, it should be at a different firm with different storage facilities. Any service, no matter how reputable, suffers some risk of loss, so any mission-critical information should be backed up elsewhere.

Secure Data Recovery is an optimal chpice for recovering your mission-critical data. Our engineers have the highest success rate in the industry at 96%. We can protect data stored on all operating systems against all manner of failure scenarios, from interrupted power supply to administration errors or natural disaster.

We recommend a three-point back up system: two physical backups on different storage types and one offsite backup on a cloud system. With media failure inevitable, you can trust Secure Data Recovery to recover data from any backup solution. For more information call 1-800-388-1266.

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