Yesterday Amazon Web Services suffered a prolonged outage which also brought down social media websites CoTweet, Hootsuite, Quora, Foursquare among others.

For Twitter accounts with multiple users (such as large brands with a social media team), Hootsuite and CoTweet (both standard and enterprise versions) are popular choices as they allow you to respond to tweets, assign them, follow up, schedule posts on the Twitter account, and are accessible from anywhere. Or almost – except when the cloud fails.

So what was the reaction within the social media community?

Hundreds of tweets from annoyed users rippled round the world. Scheduled tweets in Hootsuite and CoTweet weren’t sent (my thoughts on scheduling tweets are here).

One vendor took advantage of the situation and sponsored a tweet promoting their own product. Hmmm.

Some brands switched to using other apps or #newtwitter (such as Citi), reverting back to CoTweet when services were eventually restored.

Some brands who use CoTweet went into the cone of silence (such as McDonalds, CocaCola) and did not tweet at all during the outage.

Others such as @DeltaAssist, advised customers (via #newtwitter) that they were unable to respond to tweets due to technical difficulties. And then were silent. For 7 hours.

Delta monitors and responds to tweets 7 days per week, 24 hours a day, so a 7 hour outage would surely have been significant for them. Having a team of 9 people on their Twitter account would mean that managing their high volume of incoming tweets through another readily available tool such as Tweetdeck or #newtwitter would have been clumsy and inefficient, and likely open to delays and errors.

Luckily for brands in NZ using CoTweet or Hootsuite (and there are a number of them), the outage happened after the close of business on the Thursday before Easter weekend, so the volume of tweets at this time were reduced as people hit the road to ‘get away from it all’ – with everyone else.

But what if this had happened mid morning on a busy Monday? Is the cloud reliable, or should we have alternatives available as we would for locally housed services? Where was the redundancy Amazon?

Last Sunday afternoon, some Kiwis experienced issues accessing international websites or data housed internationally, which raises similar questions. What do we do when the internet access we rely on is  not there?

I’m sure this will give a number of people something to mull over during the Easter break.