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Router Problems at Verio Waylay Web Sites
By Jennifer Disabatino Computerworld, 06/29/00
More than 1,000 companies this week experienced slow performance and other problems on their Web sites because of troubles that Internet hosting firm Verio Inc. had with a router at its data center in Vienna, Va.
Verio officials Wednesday confirmed that about 1,200 Web sites -- 2% of the 60,000 hosted at the Vienna facility-were affected to varying degrees by the router problems, which began last Friday and were said by the Englewood, Colo.-based company to have been fixed Tuesday afternoon. Some of the affected sites had slow download times and delayed e-mail performance, while others had virtually no availability to users.
Laura Zung, vice president of product management at Verio, said the Vienna data center had "intermittent performance problems" because of the router issues. The troubles were traced to software that was improperly configured so that communication between the router and a server wasn't as efficient as possible, Zung said.
Zung acknowledged that traffic on some Web sites hosted by Verio was extremely slow, but she said no companies were left with their sites completely off-line. "Their sites were not dead for five days," she said.
But Charles Rice, CIO at Coatingsmart.com Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the outage came at a critical time for the start-up company, which is developing an online exchange for industrial and specialty paints and coatings. While Coatingsmart isn't open for business yet, a Verio-hosted introductory Web site is up and running prior to the exchange's anticipated launch in September-or it was until Friday.
Coatingsmart was registering companies to participate in the exchange, and Rice-who previously worked as vice president of technology at Borders Group Inc. in Ann Arbor-said potential customers began calling to complain that they couldn't access the site.
If we had a five-day outage (at Borders), I doubt I would have just been fired," Rice said. "I would have been drawn and quartered. This isn't Joe Bob's Web hosting service and auto repair. The first day you go, 'OK, things happen.' But when you're coming up on the fifth day, I think you have to question (what's going on)."
International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass., said in an April report that Verio had the second-highest market share among Web hosting firms last year, at 7.6%. However, size can be a weakness, especially for a company like Verio that deals with a lot of small businesses, said Courtney Munroe, an IDC analyst.
Zung said this is the first time Verio has had such a problem at any of its 30 data centers. She added that Verio has a 99.9% uptime guarantee and will give all customers whose sites were affected a voucher for a free month's worth of hosting services. Verio is also installing new software to monitor the performance of its servers, Zung said.
For Rice, though, it's too little, too late. "The lesson there, I guess, is that I would gladly pay a hundred times what I got refunded not to have the outage," he said. "What I question is the lack of business continuity planning (on the part of Verio)."
Munroe said he expects similar problems to continue happening at Web hosting firms, he warned that users aren't likely to take such events sitting down. "We're reaching the stage where (companies) are going to want to have telco-grade reliability," Munroe said. "There's no excuse, really."
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), June 29, 2000