So likers of our Facebook page and followers of our tweets (but not readers of this blog, who have been living in a desert for the past year…) might know that last month we launched an overhauled version of BookPage (where you should go to discover your next great book). People attempting to discover their next great book from yesterday morning through this early afternoon would’ve struggled because of the recent Amazon Web Services outage.
“Wait,” you might be asking, “What does Amazon.com have to do with third-party website hosting?” For those not in the industry, Amazon Web Services is the one truly exemplary implementation of the cloud I’ve seen. It’s a nearly infinite amount of disk space and bandwidth paid for on an on-demand basis. In short, Amazon.com built their own amazing internal infrastructure so well that they were able to productize it effectively. It’s a game-changing service.
One nice aspect of the modern era of web hosting for sites that get a lot of traffic is that I no longer have to spend time in data centers installing more RAM or moving servers around. To use AWS, I fire up a web browser. And possibly, but not necessarily, a shell.
Honestly, though, as cool as the cloud is from a resource management perspective, it isn’t appreciably different in terms of points of failure from traditional server environments. It might be someday, but right now it’s possible for lightning to strike and cause an outage. There’s still latency when traversing the full internet (say, from a data center in Northern Virginia to a data center in Palo Alto), which makes true geographically independent redundancy difficult.
So while you might not want to run your website and keep all of your email on your personal computer, having a good backup strategy is still a good idea. And if your business depends on your site being up, having a strategy for rapid mirroring from unhosted data (i.e., an ability to switch hosts completely if necessary, possibly from cold storage) is an even better idea.
For the moment, we’re still waiting to be able to discover great books again…