The homepage for Amazon.com was down for 49 minutes on January 31, and while this amount of time might seem inconsequential for some businesses, for a company that generates billions of dollars a year those 49 minutes could be measured in millions of dollars.
The company didn’t disclose the reason for the interruption – and as the largest Internet retailer in the world it has to be very careful in what it says to protect consumer confidence in its business model. The only part of the site that wasn’t working was the homepage, but other pages were responding to request without any problem.
The e-mail sent by the company said, “The gateway page of Amazon.com (News - Alert) was offline to some customers for approximately 49 minutes. Other pages of the site were accessible.”
Any details about the possible cause for the disruption may come at a later date.
Amazon is not only the largest online retailer, but also one of the largest computing power providers in the world through its Amazon Web Services (News - Alert) (AWS). As speculated by some, the problem might be related to a switch the company made to AWS for some of its own website. This, however, cannot be collaborated at the moment.
In the past, AWS has experienced service interruption for some of its biggest customers, including Netflix, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare (News - Alert) and Heroku. Sometimes the problems are explained and others we are left to wonder what took place. AWS provides affordable services for hundreds of thousands of startups and established companies who don’t want to or can’t invest the millions of dollars it takes to get a company going. This service gives these companies the ability to focus solely on what they are trying to produce instead of worrying about the daily minutia of IT related annoyances.
AWS is used in 190 countries around the world across all industries, and has established itself as the company to beat in this field.
Another possible cause for the disruption could be a cyber-attack. The size of the company makes it a very desirable target for criminals. In early 2012, one of its other assets, called Zappos.com, was attacked leaving millions of its users vulnerable, and that was followed by a potential DDoS attack which resulted in an arrest of a Russian national.
An organization has to take a measured approach in letting its customers and the public know what has taken place. A good example is the way the New York Times let the world know about the alleged hacking of its organization and staff by Chinese entities. The Times allowed the hacking to continue for four months under the supervision of security experts Mandiant, the company they hired. They then made the whole thing public.
The Times no doubt had its reasons for disclosing so much information about what took place, but this is a very sensitive matter and each organization has to make this decision based on the service it provides and how the information will affect its overall business operations.
Edited by Braden Becker