What We Learned From Amazon’s Outage

Poor website and app performance results in digital desertion
Sven Hammar, CSO, Apica
Sven Hammar, CSO, Apica
Sven Hammar, CSO, Apica

Amazon Web Service’s recent and very public four-hour outage caused large-scale disruption for many ecommerce companies – not to mention the financial consequences of dreaded downtime. According to our analysis, more than half of the top 100 internet retailers were affected with a decrease of at least 20 per cent in performance. Some websites went down completely.

There are several important lessons businesses should take from this unprecedented failure, the key takeaway being that preparation is paramount. If Amazon’s cloud can go down, then any site is at risk of suffering the same fate without proper planning in place.

Here are three things to remember:

1. Downtime will (seriously) cost you

Slow website performance costs e-commerce businesses money. Pages that take more than ten seconds to load are waving goodbye to a third of all potential consumers, and during the worst of the outage, some retailers’ sites were taking thirty seconds to load fully. That’s three times, or more, the limit of our patience. Ideally, pages should fully load in two or three seconds, or less.

In November last year, we put together the ‘Top 100 Web Performance Cyber Monday Index’. Some key findings Some key findings that stood out include:

· The top ten eCommerce websites are healthy, but rest are lagging behind expectations

· Scaling and stability is a major issue across the industry

· Deception through progressive page loading is key to speed

From this list, we looked at some companies hit by the recent Amazon S3 outage. Results included:

Nike – 12.3 seconds slower to load (642% increase).

Target – 41.6 seconds slower to load (991% increase).

Disney Store – 94 seconds slower to load (a massive 1,165% increase).

Read more about how the to 100 ecommerce sites were affected by the outage here.

2. You need a backup plan

At the time of the Amazon S3 outage, some websites fared better than others. Typically, those that used multiple databases in the cloud suffered only partial outages, whereas those whose only third-party provider was Amazon had more significant failures.

The benefits of deploying a multi-cloud strategy are clear for businesses. By removing reliance on a single cloud vendor, companies will be better equipped to mitigate issues when one or more of their providers suffers an outage. This sort of backup plan is crucial for anyone with a dependence on cloud software.

The cloud can also be used to backup data, a task that isn’t as challenging as many believe. Additionally, a cloud-based disaster recovery system isn’t an alien concept, but rather based along the same lines as traditional modeling. Furthermore, storing data across local servers in addition to the cloud provides another layer of protection for businesses, and helps them avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

3. Preparation is paramount

For any business with an online presence, it’s critical not just to be able to respond to crises if and when they happen, but also to have a proactive monitoring system keeping them up to date on potential issues.

There is a range of monitoring tools that can be used to catch outages before they happen. If an element of a website is failing, from third-party services to payment processes, these synthetic helpers can pinpoint the issue and trigger alerts for teams monitoring site performance from anywhere in the world. By using such tools, companies give themselves an advantage when it comes to analyzing the causes of an outage and setting in place recovery processes.

The failure of a large provider such as Amazon should stand as a stark warning to smaller businesses. It can happen to you, and preparation is key for when it does.

Website failure and performance degradation can be reduced through regular, scheduled testing of the site and its applications. When even minor outages can have massive financial implications, having a functional contingency plan in place will undoubtedly save companies in the long run.

by Sven Hammar, CSO, Apica