Giant Retailer Web Sites Hit With Outages

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Wal-Mart's Walmart.com online store suffered outages Wednesday, two days after online retail giant Amazon.com's Web site faced significant performance problems.

AlertSite.com, a company that monitors Web site performance and uptime, was unable to access Walmart.com from its seven monitoring locations in the United States at three different times on Wednesday morning Eastern Standard Time, said Ken Godskind, the company's marketing vice president.

Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella acknowledged that Walmart.com experienced availability problems Wednesday morning, but she characterized them as "minor issues" that affected the site briefly and have since been resolved. "We confirmed that customer transactions weren't affected and the site is now up and running," she said.

Colella declined to be more specific about what caused the problem, which she described as "isolated."

Sluggishness or outages at online storefronts are critical problems for online retailers, particularly during the holiday season, hurting sales volume, customer satisfaction, and customer confidence.

The Watcher

AlertSite, based in Boca Raton, Florida, checks Web sites every 15 minutes from its seven U.S. locations; and Walmart.com was unavailable from all monitoring locations at 9:37 a.m., 10:07 a.m., and 10:22 a.m., Godskind said. It was available, however, from all seven locations when checked at 9:52 a.m., he said.

AlertSite classifies a Web page as unavailable if it takes more than 30 seconds to download. AlertSite issued a report on Walmart.com's performance problems Wednesday.

According to various performance measurements, Walmart.com was sluggish for the rest of the morning and until around 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, when the site's performance returned to normal levels, he said. For example, between 11 a.m. and 11:50 a.m., Walmart.com took an average of almost 11 seconds to download; the normal average is between 3 and 4 seconds, according to the AlertSite report.

Checks by two IDG News Service service staffers in two different U.S. locations at around 3:40 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the same day found Walmart.com unavailable. Several minutes later the site seemed to be working normally again.

The performance problems at Walmart.com seem much less serious than the ones that affected Amazon's Web site Monday, Godskind said.

The AlertSite monitoring locations are in Boca Raton, Florida; Chicago; Dallas; Fremont, California; New York City; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

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