AWS outage hit collaboration vendors, highlights risk of cloud-based tools

Software-as-a-service providers including Slack, Trello, Asana, and Smartsheet saw disruptions after API and network issues hit Amazon Web Services’ U.S. data center.

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The Tuesday outage at an Amazon Web Services data center affected services from several collaboration software vendors, highlighting how reliant companies have become on cloud providers for a variety of workplace tools. 

Asana, Smartsheet, Trello, and Slack — all of which host their services on the AWS cloud — reported problems following the AWS outage. Asana and Smartsheet said users were unable to access services for around two hours, while Trello experienced disruption to its “email to board” and “dashcards” features. Slack reported issues with its audio chatroom “huddles” feature, email integrations, and file uploads Tuesday, but did not specify the disruptions were due to the AWS outage. (Slack declined to comment on whether the outage was the cause of its service issues.)

AWS’ own Chime video meeting app was also affected, the company said.  Several other core AWS services were offline from roughly 11 a.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET Tuesday — the bulk of the workday for companies affected. Those services included the company’s Elastic Compute and DynamoDB cloud tools, which are used to host customer applications.

The outage affected APIs at AWS’ US East 1 data center, the root cause related to “an impairment of several network devices,” AWS said on its service status page.

While Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors typically provide high levels of uptime, outages are not uncommon. A DNS issue caused connectivity problems for a small number of Slack users in September, for example, while Microsoft Teams, which is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, was knocked offline for multiple hours on two occasions in April, following a four-hour outage in March. Google, which runs its Workspace collaborative apps on its own cloud infrastructure, reported an outage that affected access to Gmail, Google Chat, and other tools for users in Europe just last month.

These outages are generally resolved within a few hours, but the disruption that business users can face when unable to connect underlines the importance now of cloud software for many workers. This has been even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many collaboration vendors reporting substantial increases in users over the last 18 months as many businesses rushed to support remote work.

“SaaS collaboration providers have significantly expanded their footprint in recent years; this has placed a spotlight on their growth, overshadowing the risks that come with relying on cloud-based technology vendors,” said Raúl Castañón, senior analyst at 451 Research, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“While it’s unlikely that the outage will result in significant customer losses for cloud-based technology vendors, it will put pressure on them to provide mechanisms to minimize or eliminate these risks.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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