How Far We’ve Come–The Importance of Redundancy in the Cloud

Last week, on the evening of June 14th, the Northern Virginia data center for Amazon Web Services went offline for several hours following a power outage. If you’re not familiar with Amazon Web Services, it provides online web services, primarily for web sites and cloud computing software providers, including MyCase.

All things considered, an Amazon outage is a rare occurrence. In fact, the last time a major outage happened was over a year ago in April of 2011. In 2011, the outage began at 5 a.m. on April 21st and lasted for over 24 hours. Because the cloud architecture of many popular websites is hosted on Amazon, a large number of well-traveled websites were knocked offline during the 2011 outage, including Quora, Reddit and Foursquare.

MyCase was also affected and was down for over 10 hours. It was not our finest hour. But we learned an important lesson and vowed that we would do everything in our power to prevent that from ever happening again. We carefully researched our options, made a number of changes, and set up multiple redundancies. Last week, those new procedures were tested and we’re happy to report that we passed with flying colors.

Although last week’s incident reportedly knocked a number of popular websites offline for hours–including many of those that experienced downtime in 2011, such as DropboxQuoraPinterestReddit, and Foursquare— we’re happy to report that MyCase was completely unaffected by last week’s outage.

As explained by our CTO, Chris Schulte, here’s what happened and how MyCase was able to provide uninterrupted service even when other major websites were down for hours following the Amazon outage:


On June 14th around 8:50 p.m. Pacific time, Amazon experienced a power outage in one of its data centers. MyCase was unaffected by the outage, although we did lose power to one of our servers.


Since the larger Amazon network outage in April 2011, we’ve put multiple redundancy measures in place to ensure that MyCase stays up and running in an event like this.  We’ve got at least two web servers running at all times, hosted in geographically distinct areas.  When there’s a power outage in one area, traffic is automatically redirected to the second server (this is what happened on June 14th).  Additionally, we’ve got two database servers setup with a similar configuration – the second server automatically takes over in case of a failure with the first one.


One of the great things about being hosted in the cloud is that we can add additional resources as necessary.  If we had needed more servers to handle the load during the power outage, we would have been able to get those servers online in a matter of minutes.  Fortunately, this incident happened late in the evening, so the one remaining server was able to handle all of the traffic.


At MyCase, uptime and speed are two of the most important values to our technical team, second only to the security of your data.  Rest assured that we’re always working to make sure that your data is protected and available even during these unplanned outages.

Let’s face it–downtime is a fact of life, whether you host your data in-house or use cloud computing services. Computers and servers break or require maintenance, there are power outages, and there are natural disasters, among other things. The end goal, however, is to minimize downtime as much as possible.

Of course, one of the benefits of storing your data in the cloud is that you no longer have to worry about downtime or problems with your own on-site servers. As for your data stored in the cloud, our team makes sure the redundancy is there and is on call when any issues arise. Because, as a provider of cloud computing services, customer service is paramount. At the end of the day we want make your experience as seamless and reliable as possible.

We learned our lesson in 2011. We took steps to protect our customers and built in redundancies sufficient to withstand another Amazon outage. And our new procedures worked. Unlike users of major Internet websites, our customers had uninterrupted service and likely weren’t even aware that Amazon experienced an outage. And that’s just the way we like it.

-Niki Black

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