October 23, 2012, 3:17 PM

Amazon Web Services outage knocks sites offline

Some web sites were down for hours yesterday.

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A technical glitch in web servers operated by Amazon Web Services knocked some web sites offline for hours yesterday.

One of those sites, SimplySoles.com, No. 823 in the Internet Retailer Second 500, was down for six hours yesterday, from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, says Kassie Rempel, the site’s founder and owner.

Rempel declines to estimate lost sales from the downtime, but notes that the site outage followed a recent mailing of one of the retailer’s print catalogs, which typically drives up online sales. “It did have a big impact yesterday,” she says.

Other site operators posted concerns yesterday about outages in online forums operated by Amazon Web Services, and additional concerns about related difficulties were posted today.

Amazon Web Services, a unit of Amazon.com Inc., noted in several online postings yesterday at status.aws.amazon.com that it experienced “degraded performance for a small number of EBS volumes” in a single zone in northern Virginia in its US-East-1 Region. The company experienced an outage at the same facility in June.

EBS, or Elastic Block Store, pertains to data storage technology that connects Internet traffic from a particular IP address to Amazon EC2 Internet, or “cloud-based,” computing services. EC2, which stands for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, provides the computing capacity to operate web sites.

It could not be determined how many sites were down yesterday or if Amazon has fixed the cause of the outage. Amazon Web Services did not immediately return a request for comment.

Ben Kirshner, founder and CEO of CoffeeServ Inc., which operates retail coffee site CoffeeforLess.com, says he moved his e-commerce technology off of Amazon’s cloud services this past summer after a 10-hour outage caused extensive damage to his site. Kirshner says he estimates the damage, including lost content, at over $25,000, and that Amazon offered to reimburse him for only a tiny fraction of that amount. “We spent over $30,000 a year with them,” he adds.

CoffeeforLess has since switched its web hosting to Peer 1 Hosting. CoffeeforLess is No. 462 in the Internet Retailer Top 500; Amazon is No. 1.

Amazon has seven web-hosting clients in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and six in the Second 500.

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