Amazon shopping, streaming, business services begin to come back after outage

7December 2021

— Holiday shoppers and web developers nationwide were stalled on Tuesday when some of Amazon’s business services, including e-commerce, web hosting and Prime Video, went offline shortly after 10:30 a.m. ET, according to DownDetector.com, which tracks connectivity issues based on customer reports.

At noon, DownDetector showed a peak of more than 25,000 reports of problems connecting to Amazon.com and 11,000 reports about outages on Amazon Web Services, which provides remote computing and cloud computing services to other businesses, including WRAL Digital. The problem was concentrated along the eastern seaboard, with Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta all showing outages.

WRAL uses Amazon Web Services, for instance, to schedule the livestreaming of regular newscasts to the WRAL News app and to download the latest news stories from the Associated Press and video from NBC. Each of those services was showing delays or was simply unavailable on Tuesday.

A check of AWS status showed that services called Amazon Connect, Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, all based in northern Virginia, were showing increased error rates and “degraded contact handling” throughout the day.

Katharine Knowles said she was shopping on Amazon.com, hoping to beat the holiday shopping rush by ordering early, but when it was time to check out, her payment wouldn’t go through.

“It wasn’t showing my order as being received, and I was getting a little anxious about that because we are on a time delay, and we know all the packages these days are behind schedule,” Knowles said.

Just before 6 p.m. ET, Amazon updated business users, saying, “We are seeing improvement in availability.”

The company said it expects most services to gradually come back on line through Tuesday evening.

“These things do get fixed pretty quick. This is actually taking quite long,” said Laurie Williams, Distinguished University Professor in the Computer Science Department of North Carolina State University’s College of Engineering.

Williams said the outage appears to be simply a hardware issue, adding that there’s no indication of malicious activity.

“There’s no damage being done to the regular person [but] a lot of damage being done to Netflix, Disney+ – they are not making any money,” she said. “There’s millions of dollars being lost, probably, every minute.”

Knowles said patience is key to outlasting the outage.

“Eventually, I just restarted my phone, paused on the order and hoped I hadn’t ordered it two or three times,” she said. “I guess we’ll find out when the outage is fixed.”

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