Dissecting the S3 SLA

Why S3?

  • It is a relatively simple service (S3 literally stands for Simple Storage Service)
  • It is from one of the world’s largest cloud providers
  • It is an internal dependency for some of the other popular services at AWS like EC2, Lambda, etc. which may affect their SLA
  • It has a relatively high SLA (99.9% availability) and a very good track record in the 16 years it’s been live
  • It hasn’t changed much since Jeff Bezos wanted malloc (a key memory allocation function for C programs) for the Internet. (source)


  • Latency: the S3 SLA doesn’t commit to a specific SLA if a GET or PUT request to S3 takes too long leading to a timeout
  • Traffic: the S3 SLA doesn’t commit to how much load can be put simultaneously on one S3 bucket or object in a specific region however if it leads to errors, it’s covered (see below)
  • Errors: what percentage of good requests (eg. to a valid object) return an error. Note that instead of just relying on a synthetic ping, the S3 SLA commits to an SLA for your specific requests which is more realistic
  • Saturation: as a managed service with no theoretical limit on storage, this is not critical for S3

Only when you use the service

No rolling error budget

  • Calendar month: if the service was down for 43 minutes at the end of December 31st, it’ll earn a new error budget on Jan 1 and can immediately be down for another 43 minutes bringing the total to 86 minutes. However, as long as AWS is concerned, both December and January are in the green.
  • Rolling month: calculate the error budget for the last 30 days. This prevents the caveat above but doesn’t exactly map to how the billing periods are set up.

10% for <99.9%

You don’t get it automatically

You are responsible for the evidence

You have to apply within a deadline

Credit is not refund

There’s a lower bound

Other services have less SLA (98%)

  • 99.9% allows for 43m 49s downtime per month
  • 99% allows for 7h 18m 17s downtime per month

No disaster recovery


  1. What they promise
  2. How do they measure
  3. When/how credits are paid




Sr. Staff Engineer, Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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Alex Ewerlöf

Alex Ewerlöf

Sr. Staff Engineer, Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer

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