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Why We Don’t Use Amazon to Host our Website

by Sital Patel
on March 6, 2017

Why We Don’t Use Amazon to Host our Website

Harvest stopped using Amazon Web Service to host it's website a few years ago, after Harvest CTO, Derek Anderson decided that wasn’t a good idea.  "There were many reasons to pull the website off AWS", Anderson said many years ago. "It was partially for cost reasons but mostly it was for security."

AWS' recent nearly 5-hour outage impacted many websites across the web, including Slack, Quora, Medium and even the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website. One could argue that by not being on AWS, Harvest has greater up-time, says Anderson.

Up-time is the amount of time a server is up. The goal is to be up 100% of the time but of course, no website is up 100%. There can be brief outages but they get fixed quickly and the site goes back up. Having the servers sit in a local location cuts out the middle-man and can potentially remove greater down-time, according to Anderson.

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All websites are at risk of internet failure sometimes with software not working, outages, etc. But if we added the risk of Amazon servers not working to the mix, that is added risk to up-time, and that is an easily avoidable problem that we have chosen not to burden Harvest members with, said said Anderson.

"We took control of our server infrastructure early in our company's life cycle, and avoided this outage," said Anderson. "The risk of a failure is due to the risk of every component added together and a greater chance of down-time. Every 3rd party dependency increases your risk of the server not running at any given time."

Another big theme for Harvest is security and confidentiality which is paramount in order to protect client information on Harvest. Amazon has policies in place to ensure their employees are not looking at the data and manipulating it, says Anderson. But there are no physical controls to this, and if anything is leaked by an employee, that would do irreparable damage to a client, according to Anderson.

As a result, Harvest runs on its own servers, locally in Texas, and by doing so it is exposed to a much smaller group of people that have access to the data. "Having a smaller group of people that are potential adversaries in your network security is better than possibly having thousands of Amazon employees that have access," said Anderson. "Not sharing an infrastructure with a quarter of the internet, is if they have a problem like the outage on Tuesday, a huge swath of the internet stops working.  By running on our own servers we have more control and less chance of outage."