What does the recent global internet outage mean for Cloud-based services?

Recently, a loss of service to popular websites such as Reddit, eBay, the New York Times, Amazon and even the British government’s main website hit the headlines. With more and more businesses relying on services hosted in the ‘Cloud’, accessed via the internet, what does this mean for the reliability and accessibility of these services?

What actually happened?

On June 9th 2021 many internet users reported being unable to access a plethora of websites around the world. These websites, though seemingly unconnected, all actually had one thing in common. They all relied upon Fastly, a popular content delivery network (CDN). When this CDN experienced technical issues, it meant a loss of service to all websites accessed via this CDN.

What is a CDN?

A content delivery network allows websites to be dispersed across a network of servers around the world, rather than hosted in a single location. This means that users can access the website via a server that is geographically closest to them, increasing download speed and improving user experience. Without a CDN, all users need to access data concentrated in a single location, even if it’s on the other side of the world.

What does this mean if I have business-critical services hosted online?

While the interruption to Fastly’s CDN services brought down many websites, including Amazon’s, Amazon Web Services (AWS) appears to have been unaffected. Multitone’s i-Message Cloud offering is based upon AWS, which offers numerous advantages. But why wouldn’t CDN problems interrupt AWS services? The short answer is that AWS is actually distinct from Amazon’s website and rather than relying on worldwide content delivery networks like Fastly, it operates via a network of AWS servers in what Amazon term as ‘regions’ around the world. These are what provide Cloud hosting for services like Multitone i-Message.

This of course begs the question, what if AWS’s datacentres have a problem?

Avoiding single points of failure

AWS have designed their Cloud hosting solution in such a way as to avoid single failures from interrupting their system. This is vital, as many businesses’ services, including Multitone’s i-Message Cloud service, are hosted in the AWS Cloud. A total failure in one of AWS’s regions would of course cause significant disruption. Fortunately, each ‘region’ has multiple ‘availability zones’, which are physically separate from each other but connected via low latency, high capacity and highly redundant networking. This makes AWS Cloud services resistant to single faults and guarantees high levels of availability. In short, a problem at a single availability zone in a region should not take the Cloud services based in that region offline entirely. Services can be dispersed across multiple regions too so that international businesses can grant their customers access to services in a region closest to them for the best performance.

Hybrid i-Message for the best possible survivability

i-Message is designed to fulfil a number of functions, and these can range from critical messaging in hospitals, to alarm centralisation and automation, to the everyday communications which are the lifeblood of any organisation. For some organisations, particularly those which fulfil vital functions or where safety is critical, like hospitals or power plants, any loss of communications or other services could constitute an emergency. While AWS provides resilient Cloud services, organisations are naturally reliant on their local internet infrastructure, including mobile data networks and fibre-optic cabling, to provide access to those AWS servers. This can be affected by various technical issues as well as electrical grid outages – even something as simple as a builder accidently cutting an underground cable.

In light of this possibility, we’ve developed a Cloud and on-premises hybrid approach for i-Message, whereby in addition to offering i-Message as a Cloud only or on-premises only solution, we can combine the best of both worlds for great performance and the best possible resilience. Having i-Message on premises as well as in the Cloud allows you to use local i-Message services via LAN as a back-up should external internet connectivity be lost. In this way, you can take advantage of the speed and redundancy provided by AWS’s impressive Cloud architecture, which is particularly useful for off-site workers, whilst having the assurance that, should your main premises’ internet connection go down, you can still continue to operate effectively within that premises.

Learn more about i-Message in the Cloud and our hybrid offering

If you would like to learn more about what i-Message can provide, the benefits of Cloud, the resilience in-built into AWS and the benefits of taking a hybrid approach, contact us at [email protected] or call +44 (0)1256 320292.