Internet users experienced problems getting around the Web on Tuesday because of an outage affecting Amazon Web Services, the Amazon-owned platform that many websites rely on to keep their pages humming.
Amazon confirmed that it was experiencing a "high error rate" in one of its regional data centers in northern Virginia on Tuesday afternoon. (Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
The company confirmation, posted to AWS' status page, said the outage was also "impacting applications and services dependent on S3," the company's popular cloud-based storage platform.
Slack, Medium and Quora were among the services affected by Tuesday's outage. In addition, certain sites whose whole purpose is to check whether other sites are online also seemed to have been taken down by the incident.
Several of the Internet's most visible companies are hosted on Amazon Web Services, including Airbnb, Expedia, Netflix and others. An outage in 2015 accidentally took down many of these services for several hours. And in 2011, AWS suffered a days-long outage that knocked popular sites such as Reddit and the New York Times offline.
For an industry that so widely depends on AWS, losing access to the service can be incredibly disruptive, even if the outage lasts only a few hours.
"This afternoon, CEOs and CIOs are asking: 'What do we have in the cloud? Is it available? What do we do?'" said Bill Wohl, a spokesman for Commvault, a data backup and protection company. "Not knowing is a risk to business, and time is of the essence."
At about 5pm Eastern Time, Amazon announced on AWS' page that it had resolved the issues.
"The Amazon S3 service is operating normally," the company said on its status page. It did not provide details on the cause of the outage.
AWS' data centers in northern Virginia may be among the service's oldest, and they are located there because the region has become a major hub for Web traffic as data passes back and forth on its way to computers or smartphones. AWS itself has become a core piece of the Internet's underlying infrastructure; it is now an $11 billion-a-year business, according to Amazon's financial reports.
A spokesman for Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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