Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


When servers go down

Let’s start this post off by saying it’s really not a good thing for anyone (except maybe the blogosphere) that Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service went down last week.

I feel really bad for the companies that hosted their website with Amazon and were totally out of business for up to a few days.

I feel really really bad for the company that Business Insider reports lost critical business data and received this salt-in-the-wound impersonal email from Amazon:


A few days ago we sent you an email letting you know that we were working on recovering an inconsistent data snapshot of one or more of your Amazon EBS volumes.  We are very sorry, but ultimately our efforts to manually recover your volume were unsuccessful.  The hardware failed in such a way that we could not forensically restore the data.

What we were able to recover has been made available via a snapshot, although the data is in such a state that it may have little to no utility…

If you have no need for this snapshot, please delete it to avoid incurring storage charges.

We apologize for this volume loss and any impact to your business.

Amazon Web Services, EBS Support

I don’t feel so bad for Amazon themselves since they have the resources to survive this incident.  I have no doubt that they will shore up their data center’s hardware, software and standard operating procedures to decrease the probability of this type of failure from ever happening again.

In the short run, I think all of us in the Cloud industry will have to deal with the repercussions, but in the long run that’s a good thing.  We’ll all be stronger for the added attention to the more stringent reliability, availability and security requirements for our data centers.

In the interim, I’d like to share our “patent pending” solution to not losing any of our client’s data:

b2b2dot0 doesn’t store any business critical data

That’s right, zero business data stored.

Last year, we processed over $200M worth of transactions for our clients without ever storing a single byte of business data on our B2B eCommerce servers.

Anytime we need data to support any step along the Order to Cash process, we go to SAP in real time to get it.

We store zero customer information (except for website access and priviliges).
We store zero partner information (Ship To, Bill To, Payer, Shipping Methods etc.)
We store zero product information.
We store zero contract or pricing information.
We store zero inventory or availability information.
We store zero financial information (credit cards etc.).
We store zero documents (order confirmations, invoices, bill of ladings, packing slips etc.).
We store zero order information.


If (more than likely when) we experience hardware or software failures in our data center, we might sustain some measurable website availability issues.  However, we’ve committed to a 99.5% SLA for availability and have engineered our data center and standard operating procedures to deliver to that goal.  But as Amazon showed us last week, stuff sometimes happens.  In that case, worst comes to worst (I mean the absolute doomsday scenario), our client’s customers will fall back on the phone, email and fax that our website replaced.  B2B eCommerce business can continue…as long as SAP is still up :-).

With that said, the one thing we can absolutely 100% guarantee is that we will never ever lose any customer data.  That’s because we never had it in the first place.

That’s one less thing anyone has to worry about.


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