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The 10 scariest cloud outages (and lessons learned from them)

With more businesses and applications moving data to the cloud, even small outages can be devastating. By studying the worst cloud fails, we can find clues to avoiding future problems.

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Topic: Cloud
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1 of 20 Phil Ramey/RameyPix/Corbis

T-Mobile Sidekick shutdown, 2009

Think cloud outages can't be terrifying? You haven't been paying attention. Happy Halloween, everybody ...

In fall 2009, a server failure at Microsoft caused big problems for T-Mobile Sidekick phone owners: They were unable to access their email, calendar info, contacts, and personal data stored in the cloud for a week.

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2 of 20 CNET

Lessons learned from T-Mobile

Lessons Learned: If you have important data in the cloud you can't afford to lose, it's worth your time to make a local backup for safekeeping.

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3 of 20 Helen King/Corbis

Yahoo! Mail outage, 2013

When Yahoo! Mail underwent a major redesign in October 2013, a some users reported that mail items appeared to be missing from their accounts. Ultimately, in December 2013, Yahoo! admitted that there was a failure in 1 percent of its email accounts -- affecting approximately 1,000,000 people -- with some emails going undelivered for weeks or months.

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4 of 20 Ruben Sprich/Reuters/Corbis

Lessons learned from Yahoo!

Lessons Learned:A major frustration in this outage was a lack of communication. Yahoo! attempted to minimize the appearance of the disaster when discussing it publicly, while CEO Marissa Mayer was criticized for staying silent.

When there's an outage companies and executives need to be in front of it.

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5 of 20 Keith Bedford/Reuters/Corbis

Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Hurricane Sandy caused lengthy power outages and extensive flooding in the New York City area, taking a number of servers offline in the region. This caused major websites to fail, including The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Gawker.

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6 of 20 Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis

Lessons learned from Sandy

Lessons Learned: Many backup generators failed during Hurricane Sandy because they were submerged in water; others failed when liquid fuel reserves ran out. Having a robust plan for continued operations through natural disasters is critical.

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7 of 20 Iain Masterton/incamerastock/Corbis

Amazon Cloud Services outage, 2015

In September 2015, Amazon Cloud Services servers failed when they were overloaded with metadata requests from a new DynamoDB feature. As a result, many popular apps and websites (Reddit, Tinder, Netflix, IMDB) were offline for seven hours.

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8 of 20 Corbis

Lessons learned from Amazon

Lessons Learned: Most Amazon clients were caught unprepared for the outage, but not Netflix. That's because the streaming site uses "chaos engineering" to simulate disruptions, preparing itself for the worst.

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9 of 20 Yuriko K Nakao/Reuters/Corbis

PayPal, 2009

In 2009, PayPal experienced a worldwide system outage for approximately five hours. The company handled $2,000 in online commerce every second at the time, suggesting the event interfered with $36 million worth of personal and business transactions.

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10 of 20 David Shopper/Corbis

Lessons learned from PayPal

Lessons Learned: Mobile payment systems can and do fail. Businesses should support multiple payment systems where possible to give customers options during an outage.

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11 of 20 ASP/Cal Sport Media/Zumapress.com

GoDaddy, 2012

Initially thought to be the work of an Anonymous-connected hacker, a sizable outage struck web services provider GoDaddy in 2012. The outagee was due to corrupted router table data. Service was down for six hours, putting countless websites and email inboxes out of commission.

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12 of 20 Hiya Images/Corbis

Lessons learned from GoDaddy

Lessons Learned: GoDaddy was criticized for having poor infrastructure, poor support and poor communications throughout the crisis. If you have business-critical data in the cloud, it is imperative that you choose your provider wisely.

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13 of 20 Robin Nelson/Zumapress.com

Food Stamps/SNAP, 2013

A power outage at a Xerox Corp. data center wrecked havoc on America's food stamp program in 17 states for more than 11 hours, removing the spending limits from SNAP EBT cards.

This led to supermarket shelves being "decimated" as shoppers piled their carts full of groceries. Other supermarkets stopped accepting SNAP cards entirely.

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14 of 20 Mike Segar/Reuters/Corbis

Lessons learned from SNAP

Lessons Learned: While relatively rare, long cloud outages can happen in crucial areas. It's important to have a game plan in place for dealing with these outages -- many stores simply turned away hungry customers, inciting panic.

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15 of 20 Rick Maiman/Sygma/Corbis

NASDAQ failure, 2013

On Aug. 22, 2013, a software bug in the NASDAQ backup servers caused a total failure, taking the stock exchange offline for more than three hours. When it came back online, traders rushed to sell shares of NASDAQ itself, pushing it 5 percent lower.

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16 of 20 Steve Prezant/Corbis

Lessons learned from NASDAQ

Lessons Learned: Shortly after the outage, NASDAQ proposed design changes to its Securities Information Processor, "including architectural improvements, information security, disaster recovery plans and capacity parameters."

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17 of 20 Mike Blake/Reuters/Corbis

Intuit Cloud outage, 2010

In June 2010, power failures took down both the main and backup servers at financial services company Intuit (Quickbooks, TurboTax). Businesses lost access to their books for 36 hours. Making matters worse, a second failure occurred at Intuit less than a month later.

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18 of 20 Corbis

Lessons learned from Intuit

Lessons Learned: If you need guaranteed, round-the-clock access to your important financial data, keep an offline copy.

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19 of 20 CNET

Hotmail database error, 2010

At the end of 2010, Microsoft ran a script to delete a number of dummy Hotmail accounts the company had used for testing purposes. An error in the script instead deleted 17,000 legitimate accounts. Account recovery and service restoration took three days in most cases; longer in others.

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20 of 20 Imaginechina/Corbis

Lessons learned from Hotmail

Lessons Learned: We all have our preferred email provider. To play it safe, however, it's worth maintaining an account with a second provider to maintain communications in case of emergency.

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