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Cloud computing provides plenty of benefits for both businesses and individual users, but they are not immune to failure.Web-based services can crash just like any other type of technology. So be aware of how heavily you rely on their services and at what cost.

Although we are only midway into 2013, “the cloud” has already experience a fair share of outages. Here is a timeline of outages from some of the big companies:


Date: Jan. 31, 2013- Duration: 49 minutes.

Amazon.com displayed a text error message for almost an hour which read, “Http/1.1 Service Unavailable.” An internal issue was most likely the cause.

Date: Jan. 10, 2013 Duration: Around 16 hours.

Dropbox. The main selling point of a service like Dropbox is that you can rely on it as if it were your own local hard drive. So when the service is unavailable for an entire day, it can be is a real setback.The problem was resolved the next morning.

Date: Jan. 28, 2013 Duration: 2-3 hours.

Facebook users were unable to keep up with their friends’ status updates. Hacker group Anonymous had posted a video earlier in the month in which it threatened to attack Facebook and take the site down on that very same day.  People went two to three hours without knowing what their former high school classmates ate for breakfast. The world, astonishingly, did not end.

Facebook said the downtime was the result of a DNS issue that “prevented people who typed ‘facebook.com’ into their browsers from reaching the site.” There were no signs that Anonymous was responsible for the outage.


Date: Feb. 1-2, 2013 Duration: Around 2 hours.

Microsoft. On Feb. 1, the company’s Office 365 suite and Outlook.com mail service both were down. Users were unable to access the services for about two hours, which,because of the enterprise-connected nature of those products, is a big deal. Then, a day later, Microsoft’s Bing search engine experienced an outage for nearly two-hours. The outage, according to Microsoft, was the result of “routine maintenance”problems. More specifically, the company said a “scheduled network configuration change” was the “root cause of the issue.”

Date: Feb. 22, 2013 Duration: Over 12 hours

Microsoft experienced a second outage in the month February.On February 22, the company’s Windows Azure cloud storage service stopped working.Other Microsoft services like Xbox Live, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video also started acting up, with users unable to access cloud-connected data or utilize any multimedia content.Microsoft admitted that an expired security certificate was the cause of the system crash.


Date: March 18-19,2013 Duration: About 17 hours.

Google Drive.On Monday, March 18, many Google users experienced slow load times or timeout messages when trying to access their Google Drive documents and files. That lasted for about three hours.A day later, a second Google Drive outage kept some users from accessing the service for about two hours. Two days after that, Google Drive went down for about 12 hours.Google said that the initial issue was related to a glitch in the company’s network control software. The system apparently failed to load-balance (Load balancing is a method for distributing workloads across multiple computers)which caused latency on theirservers. That, in turn, led to an issue with Google Drive’s connection-management system.


Date: May 30 2013. Duration: About 90 minutes

Dropbox. Dropbox’s service went offline (again) for about an hour and a half, leaving users with no way to access their files or upload any new data. Dropbox, this time, simply apologized for any inconvenience as a result of the outage but didn’t offer a reason for what caused it.


Date: June 3 2013. Duration: About 45 minutes.

Twitter. Twitter’s service crapped out for just under an hour. During that time, users were unable to access the service to send or read tweets. After 25 minutes, service returned for some users but remained slow and intermittent for a while longer.Timelinescame up blank and tweets went undelivered for a short time.Twitter said an error during a “routine change”caused the outage. Twitter techsrolled back the change and the tweets starting working again.

There is no question that cloud computing is here to stay and is arguably the future of computing. We’ll just have to learn to take the bad with the good.

Harold Nussbaum can be reached for technical support at:harold_networkmasters.biz

By Harold Nussbaum

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