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Failed promotion for Amazon cloud storage affects consumer confidence

It’s one of those things that looks fantastic on paper: Introduce your cloud service to the consumer market by packaging it with a super-cheap, eagerly anticipated superstar’s new album. Amazon did just that by bundling Lady Gaga’s new album with an upgrade to 20 GB of free storage on Amazon cloud storage, which allows users to stream their music on any internet connection or smartphone. It’s a win-win scenario, right?

Wrong. As the consumers logged on and purchased en masse, Amazon’s servers were slammed, causing download delays and eventual download failures. Amazon issued apologies over its Twitter feed but as of bedtime last night, my MP3 files still hadn’t started downloading. This morning, I woke to only half the transfer completed and had to open a customer service help ticket to have the other half pushed again. The album itself received dozens of poor reviews on its Amazon page, primarily based on the technical failures in delivering the files rather than the artistic merit of the music (Amazon has since redacted those reviews, rightfully so). Similarly, users who were banking on Amazon cloud storage are reporting that the link-up doesn’t even work and are warning other users not to even try it.

Obviously, lesson No. 1 here is, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Did Amazon triple check to make sure that its infrastructure could withstand the worst-case scenario in traffic spikes — and then some? Every one of us could be (and has been) caught off guard, but with the embarrassing Amazon Web Services outage not even a month ago, Amazon is killing the credibility in its technical services with this very public fiasco. What could have been a public relations coup for Amazon ended up being a public relations nightmare. Some analysts are predicting that consumers will move elsewhere for their music, reducing Amazon’s already tiny percentage of digital music purchases.

Of course, if someone would have told me 10 years ago that we’d trust a bookstore to run our servers, I would have laughed and laughed, but Amazon was able to get past that mental leap and become a viable name in cloud services. Hopefully, they’ll be able to come out swinging in the next few months and figure out how to really shine as I don’t think consumer confidence in Amazon’s cloud storage techfu will stand another one of these truly embarrassing blunders.

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