Pros and Cons of Amazon Web Services

Next to Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon Web Services is one of the largest, most trusted, and most cost-effective cloud-based business solutions.  If you’re looking for a cloud-based business solution, we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of Amazon Web Services.

But first, the important questions: How did an e-commerce retailer become an IT infrastructure superpower?

Amazon Web Services was deployed in 2006, Amazon had been developing a cloud-based infrastructure modelled after their own web back-end structure. Amazon’s massive success in e-commerce had shown them they could handle the capabilities of storing large quantities of data and helping businesses and developers create scalable solutions for their IT needs.

Amazon was also the first business to offer Iaas (infrastructure-as-a-service) helping small and large organisations alike find an affordable solution to their data storage solutions.

Unfortunately, AWS has been the central component in some of the most high-profile data breaches in history. Victims of data leaks and information theft has included high-profile companies like Uber, with 57 million personnel records stolen, Verizon with customer accounts being exposed, 40,000 passwords accessed from Accenture clients, and 100GB of classified data belonging to INSCOM being leaked.

Pros of Amazon Web Services

Trust – Amazon Web Services is among the most trusted in the industry, having compiled the most compliance certifications. Amazon Web Services boasts FIPS 140-2 Level 2.

A capacity solution – previously, companies had to purchase a set amount of data storage, without knowing if they would or would not use it. Amazon Web Services allows for a scalable solution, meaning companies no longer must ‘wait and see’ if they’ll use all that extra space they paid for.

Fast and agile – Amazon Web Services provides speed and agility for applications. An application can easily be deployed within minutes via a quick set-up process that allows us to reduce time and cost and speed up efficiency and agility.

Pay as you go – Like it’s counterpart Azure, Amazon Web Services only asks you to pay for the services you use. The process is secure and simple and allows for simple automated scaling according to your cloud usage. However, customers have experienced bill shock in the past, we’ll explain more below.

Cons of Amazon Web Services

Cloud computing glitches – Cloud-based services do still glitch, and Amazon Web Services is no exception. While the service is robust and well-designed, it’s not perfect and still subject to general cloud computing glitches.

Amazon EC2 has its limitations, although this is less of a con and more of an option as you can request upgrades depending on your region and usage requirements. Your service will come with a prescribed set of limitation regarding volume, images, and snapshots. However, you will be able to increase these as needed.

Like all cloud-based storage solutions, Amazon Web Services and access to it is dependent on your internet connection. With no internet connection you’re out of luck, and out of work. Improper handling can also cause trouble.

Bill Shock – Customers have experienced bill shock in the past with Amazon Web Services. There are ways to avoid this though, Amazon Web Services recommends you enable monitoring for your account, this will allow Amazon Web Services to send an alert with an estimate for both your total monthly bill and the monthly bill for each service you are using. The notifications will come via email, so make sure you direct them to one you regularly check.

Insecure Services – It’s important to note that while configuring services so they are insecure is possible with Amazon Web Services this is not a problem exclusive to AWS. All service providers face this issue.

Country Specific – Amazon is located in the USA, so each service advertised may not be available in your specific location if you are located outside the USA.

Data Mining – AWS (or something else) could be mining your data, something potentially worth worrying about.

Use of data – Not all laws surrounding data are created equal. Amazon Web Services could allow foreign companies and officials of foreign governments to access and use your data without you knowing.

Intellectual property protection – In 2017 AWS removed a customer agreement clause that had previously worked to protect Amazon from copyright infringement regarding patents. The AWS customer agreement now reads: AWS will defend you and your employees, officers, and directors against any third-party claim alleging that the Services infringe or misappropriate that third party’s intellectual property rights, and will pay the amount of any adverse final judgment or settlement.”

How hard is it to move from AWS to a competitor? – It’s difficult to move from Amazon Web Services to a competitor such as Microsoft’s Azure. This is because both companies use proprietary storage solutions and APIs. Third party tools used for data transfer can add to this confusion. Access controls can also be lost in translation, so administrators will need to ensure there is a consistency in access and protection policies across both platforms. A migration is highly complex, in fact it might be the case that an entire system redesign would be required.

Overuse of the services due to the ease of access – When a service is so easy to use, we tend to forget how much we’re consuming. Amazon Web Services resources can be consumed in a way that means clients might not remove services when they no longer need them. Previous restrictions on data usage have been turned into positives, but the ease of consumption can cause an explosion of data usage. Organisations can mitigate change control.

Do you own your data with Amazon Web Services? – AWS defines data in two different subsets. First, customer content, and then account information. Customer data refers to the data customers store with AWS – photos, documents, etc. AWS does not access this data without the customers permission, nor do they access data for market research purposes. Customers are able to control their own encryption settings for content. AWS as a storage service maintains that if you created the data, you own it. The contract between AWS and the customer states. Other than the rights and interests expressly set forth in this Agreement, and excluding Amazon Properties and works derived from Amazon Properties you reserve all right, title and interest (including all intellectual property and proprietary rights) in and to Your Content.’

Data Loss Prevention Policies – When it comes to data loss policies and compensation with Amazon Web Services, AWS will compensate customers with credits for service outages, but not data loss. This was found earlier this year when a power outage at an Amazon AWS data facility caused a massive amount of data loss for organisations relying on AWS services. Backup strategies for your data are important to maintain no matter what services you believe you are paying for with a provider.

If you plan to use Amazon Web Services, click here to read our article on best practices for Amazon Web Services.

Cogito Group is an award-winning cybersecurity company specialising in authentication, cloud security, identity management and data protection. Cogito Group protect the authentication methods used to access information through the use of Identity and other security technologies.