When Good Sites Go Bad: The Most Frustrating Website Outages of 2015

Every site, no matter how big or small, is prone to website downtime. With 2016 beginning and 2015 becoming a memory, it’s time to review the biggest website downtime blunders of the past year. These examples of website downtime prove just how frustrating downtime can be for your customers (and the world in general) and just how damaging downtime episodes can be to a website’s reputation and profits.

The Black Friday/Cyber Monday Domino Effect

One time of the year that all online retailers want to make sure that their sites are up and running is during Black Friday through Cyber Monday, the days when the best deals (and greatest profits) are there for the taking. Unfortunately, it seems that many websites, even big ones, still haven’t learned the vital lesson of anticipating and accommodating for traffic surges on such days, turning days that could have meant unprecedented profits into days filled with frustration and profit loss.

In 2015, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period saw many giants fall prey to an inability to manage traffic properly. Target was one of the top companies to fall. As customers vied to get the deals that had been advertised, they were met with a message saying the site was down. No deals to be had, just disappointment and frustration that did nothing to foster goodwill between Target and its customers. But Target wasn’t the only online retailer to be caught with its cyber pants down. Neiman Marcus, NewEgg, HP, and other big names suffered major outages during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday events, simply because they weren’t prepared for the influx of traffic they would receive. Hopefully in 2016, these sites will realize accommodations need to be made for increased traffic and the frustration caused for customers in 2015 won’t be repeated this year.

What’s Up with Facebook?

During 2015 Facebook had several major outages including one in January and a whopping three in September. Not only did these outages impact the Facebook website itself, but it also impacted services that use Facebook’s authentication platform. The outage in January was blamed on the engineering team, which supposedly took the site down after discovering a system issue. September, however, was a completely different story with outages ranging from ten minutes to almost two hours. As the world seems to live more and more in the virtual community that Facebook offers, many users were more than frustrated with the site’s seeming incompetence. Hopefully 2016 will see fewer problems for the social media giant.

The Day Bloomberg’s Outage Created Worldwide Financial Havoc

On April 17th, Bloomberg learned that when it rains, it pours. Facing a global 2.5 hour outage, the website fell plague to a combination of hardware and software errors. Not only were customers unable to use more than 325,000 professional terminals to access important financial data, but the resulting frustration caused havoc in financial markets, even causing the U.K. government to postpone a scheduled multibillion dollar auction of government debts. Even Chinese officials tightened trading regulations. There have even been speculations that in addition to the frustration and havoc it caused for the U.K. and China, the outage caused the U.S. stocks to fall sharply as well. Who knew that website downtime could have such widespread effects? 

Amazon’s 2015 Failings

If we are to review the biggest website outages of the year in 2015, we would be remiss to forget about Amazon’s AWS issues. With a slew of applications having been created by more than 1 million active customers, when AWS has issues, online services tend to take a huge hit. On the 30th of June, AWS fell to a route leak, diverting traffic from major networks to a hosting provider based in Boston for a full 42 minutes. Big name services like Amazon.com, Netflix Tinder, Yelp, Experian, and even Zions Bank were impacted.

Next, on September 20th, a different issue brought the AWS services down again. Applications became unusable for hours. Netflix and Tinder were once again affected, as were IMBD and Reddit. Let’s say it wasn’t a good day for service users who looked forward to sitting back with a good cup of coffee, watching a show on Netflix, and browsing Reddit or Tinder. Millions of customers vented frustration at Amazon’s seeming lack of competence. Hopefully in 2016 we won’t be seeing more of the same.

Learning from History

Mistakes are going to be made as the Internet advances. There is no way around this fact. However, that doesn’t excuse complete negligence and the frustration it causes consumers. Let’s hope that 2016 taught webmasters, both big and small, that paying attention to things like bandwidth, software integration, and vigilant downtime surveillance are not option – they are integral to sound online business practices. Because when downtime happens, it can simply stop you from seeing your favorite Netflix show when you want to or it can affect your entire stock portfolio. Neither one is really acceptable when measures can be taken to prevent such incidents.