As you can imagine the subject of website downtime/slowdowns is very close to my heart. Our startups new app monitors websites for uptime and performance. The full impact of Website downtime has just really hit me. This week part of The Pitch website frustratingly went down. On the same day the premier Web host provider Rackspace had a full hours outage which impacted many, many websites. These failures got me thinking. How common is downtime and what are the downstream effects for both ecommerce and SaaS apps/sites?
Customers get angry when web pages are down. Don’t blame them.
Sh*t downtime Happens
As our good friend and Cloud Computing expert Simon Wardley says Cloud downtime is inevitable. Its going to happen. However that does not mean we should be complacent and accept it. Ecommerce consumers certainly aren’t. They’re increasingly less tolerant of downtime. The effects are real. A Harris survey in 2008 found that consumers abandon or switch 42% of all transactions when they have a problem. This is up 12% on 2007.
Also 84% of online consumers share negatives experience’s with others (Harris). Many of these problems are technical and performance related. A reputation which took considerable effort to establish can vanish overnight. The downtime message spreads at the speed of light through Twitter across 10′s millions of users. You can become known for being unreliable.
I’ve done some routing around to find evidence of how common website downtime is. According to Pingdom the average website is down for two hours per month!! That could be alot of visitors or customers lost. Sainburys, a leading UK supermarket, website was down for three hours during one day last year and at various other times. A large number of customers were tracked immediately moving from Sainburys to a competitor.
Back in 99′ Ebay’s 22-Hour outage was estimated to have cost them $2 Million. The Register figured UK Website downtime to cost £565m a year in 2002. This included “indirect costs, such as loss of reputation, lost future sales and the cost of storing unsold goods”. Harris says (2008) transaction problems impact £11.9b of sales. The impact of downtime has other downsides. Google penalizes your long term Ads Quality Score when your site or landing page is down.
Despite the interruptions the outlook remains very strong for ecommerce and for other web services. Cloud/SaaS is forecast to grow massively over the next five years. IDC are saying upto 33% of IT spending growth by 2013!! This growth includes many of the free services such as Gmail, Facebook, etc which we have come to love. As Cloud inertia grows more and more chargeable apps are going to switch to the web.
A very similar downtime and slowdown reality to ecommerce also applies software-as-service (SaaS) apps. Only the churn rate of customers is slower i.e. SaaS users/consumers are on short term billing contracts. The effect is not a immediate loss of sales. Unless they are trying to sign up of course. However the resulting loss of sales and reputation is the same. The Cloud and SaaS apps have much to learn from ecommerce’s 15 years of experience. And ecommerce still has a long way to go.
Website/SaaS downtime: bad planning or bad luck