Software // Enterprise Applications
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12/21/2005
04:24 PM
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Salesforce.com Outage Inconveniences Customers

Database glitch a reminder that users of on-demand systems should make backup plans.

Merry Christmas, Salesforce.com customers.

Just as the on-demand customer-relationship-management vendor's 350,000 subscribers were no doubt wrapping up their pre-holiday numbers-crunching, many lost access to their Salesforce applications for about six hours Tuesday when an error in a database cluster resulted in a glitch in one of the four global database nodes on which customers' data resides.

The outage was one of the more significant ones Salesforce has experienced, but inconvenienced customers weren't exactly up in arms about it. Cliff Bell, CIO of Phoenix Technologies, a maker of core system software for PCs, said the company's help desk received some calls from users unable to access their Salesforce data, but that there was little impact beyond that. Bell says he's not surprised to see an outage at a time when San Francisco-based Salesforce only recently went live with a new backup data center on the East Coast. "As an IT person, I would expect that when you bring up a parallel universe, you're going to have some issues," he says.

Wes Benwick, CEO of Bennett's Business Systems, which sells copiers, scanners and document management systems, says he heard from some frustrated users, but that the outage didn't affect the business, and that it would take much more for him to consider switching vendors. "I only would be concerned and would consider a change if they lost data due to an outage or some kind of negligence," says Benwick.

Even the Saleforcewatch.com blog wasn't exactly ablaze. There was some discussion of the outage, but the most significant postings centered on a lack of information coming from Saleforce about the issue. Salesforce VP of corporate strategy Bruce Francis says the problem has been fully addressed. "We're running like a thoroughbred now," says Francis.

Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wetteman says the incident is a reminder that companies relying on on-demand customer-relationship-management systems should be thinking about their offline synching options to prevent such outages from stopping productivity. "People do need to be thinking carefully about what accessing an on-demand application means," says Wetteman. Salesforce does offer an offline edition of its service that lets mobile users synch everything from customer contacts to sales opportunities.

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