Another outage, but salesforce.com is learning fast

Salesforce.com reportedly suffered its second outage yesterday in as many weeks, but its reaction suggests it has already learned lessons from the earlier debacle.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

According to TheStreet.com, on-demand CRM vendor Salesforce.com had another outage yesterday: "An internal company memo viewed by TheStreet.com indicates that customers in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America were affected for several hours."

Although significantly less embarrassing thanThe new status page will get its first major test Monday the extended loss of service many customers experienced just before Christmas, a second outage in as many weeks is unwelcome news. As one analyst points out, it's not going to help the vendor close deals in the run-up to its fiscal year-end, which ends 31st January.

What's encouraging, though, is that Salesforce.com seems to have learned lessons from the earlier debacle and has already taken steps to improve customer communications when things go wrong. One good sign is the existence of the memo itself — last time, the company's internal processes weren't up to the job of keeping everyone informed and a proper explanation didn't emerge until the following day.

Even better is the announcement that the company has decided to rush out a beta of a system status page to accompany its Winter '06 Release, which is due to roll out this weekend. Here's an extract from the memo sent to customers early today, as quoted in full at SalesForceWatch.com:

"We've heard your requests for more proactive information about system performance ... We ... plan to make available a beta version of our system status page so you can get real-time updates on system status and performance.  As always, we appreciate your feedback on how to make this service more useful to you."

The memo, from Parker Harris, co-founder and EVP technology at Salesforce, points out that the upgrade to a new version carries "a risk of degraded system performance as global peak load comes on line." So the new status page will get its first major test as workers on the US West coast begin to log in on Monday.

This is a welcome move by Salesforce.com and a significant step towards implementing the five-point code of practice for on-demand providers that I published in the wake of last month's outage. Customers will be relieved by the company's rapid action to put better processes in place, which will go a long way towards restoring any loss of trust and confidence caused by these outages.

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