Amazon (news, site) may be one of the 200lb information gorillas in the cloud, but it's not immune to taking a good beating, as an unfortunate customer story shows.

Late last week a customer using Amazon's Web Services came under a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack from an unknown source. The target was code-hosting site Bitbucket who found its hosted information all but unavailable and its site inaccessible to customers.

Both Bitbucket and its customers were soon looking to Amazon for answers and none seemed forthcoming until the outage starting appearing on Twitter messages from various disgruntled members.

Amazon stalled when first contacted (clearly following step one of the customer support manual) but soon recognized and began to address the problem. It's good to see that during the outage, several hosting companies got in touch with Bitbucket to offer their services. Nothing like a crisis to see a firm reassess its priorities.

Over the weekend there were several waves of attack, followed by further downtime due to corruption of the company databases as a result of the attack. It turns out the site was being hammered by UDP packets, leaving genuine requests flailing in a sea of traffic.

To get the fine detail on this story, the Twitter feed of Bitbucket's chief, Jesper Noehr makes for interesting reading, as does the more detailed blog posts of the outage.

This story should act as a statutory warning to those who sign up to any online-only service. Perhaps wowed by the glossy brochure, the guarantee of 99.9% uptime and the promise of tech support from the head of computing himself, even on weekends -- nothing is perfect and always have a backup.