What to Do When the Cloud Comes Crashing Down

NEWS ANALYSIS: Major cloud services are super reliable, until they suffer an outage that can bring your business to its knees for hours or longer. It's a good idea to always have a Plan B.

Cloud Crash 2

If it seems like major services have been crashing a lot lately and for extended periods, you're not imagining things. A cluster of crashes has plagued users of a wide variety of high-profile cloud services in the past month.

If this is a glimpse of what our future holds then let's examine the occurrences, learn from them and take action accordingly.

The biggest of these was an epic Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage.

Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services on Sept. 20 caused big chunks of the Internet to either go offline or get really slow—for five long hours.

An AWS database service called the Amazon DynamoDB service, which is used for the kind of super low-latency applications that run on AWS, started having problems. And those problems sent a ripple effect to major applications used by some of the Internet's best-known sites.

It took Amazon two hours to figure out what was causing the problem and then three additional hours to fix it.

Affected sites included Netflix, Medium, Buffer, Reddit, Pocket, Product Hunt, SocialFlow, GroupMe, Viber and others. The effects of the problem ranged from total outages to radical drops in performance.

Amazon's answer to Siri, which is the Alexa virtual assistant that's conveyed through Amazon's Echo product, also was hit.


Another major outage struck Microsoft's Skype service on Monday, Sept. 21. While the paid Skype for Business app and newish Web version of Skype continued operating, regular Skype (which connects via an app and is used by a majority of Skype users) suffered a colossal outage lasting an incredible 15 hours.

Some users couldn't log in or see if contacts were online. Many others simply couldn't do Skype calls.

This affected me, personally, as in addition to working as a columnist I also anchor a daily Internet show called Tech News Today. It's an interview show, and our guests connect via Skype. In fact, the TWiT network has dozens of shows, and most of them use Skype in one capacity or another. Needless to say, it was a rough day because of Skype's outage.

And, of course, we weren't alone. Skype has about 300 million users.


Even Twitter went down for an hour earlier in September. Twitter is increasingly relied upon for news outlets, TV shows along with the general public as a source of breaking and emergency news. It's a big deal when it goes down, according to the many people complaining about it on Facebook, but note that most users accessing Twitter via a third-party client were still able to use the service.


A major power transformer failure Aug. 22 at a substation that provides power to a Fujitsu data center in Silicon Valley took a variety of Software as a Service applications and public cloud services offline. The outage caused cascading failures that led to service disruptions for up to five days for some customers.