October 12, 2012, 2:42 PM

Lights go out at Volusion. Again.

The e-commerce software provider blames maintenance and a data storage network for the outage.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

Volusion Inc. reported problems in loading its clients’ web sites today, blaming a delay in maintenance preparing for the holiday season and difficulty in rebooting a data storage area network. The outage comes two months after the company released a new version of its e-commerce platform, and after the company’s CEO Clay Olivier said in July that Volusion was upgrading its data center to avoid further outages.

It could not be determined how many of the more than 40,000 online stores that the company says use its hosted e-commerce technology were effected. But more than 30 postings on the company’s Facebook page today complained of site problems, including one by Laurie McConnell, CEO and founder of web design firm Bad Dog Design Inc., who wrote: “Ah, a systemic problem. Thought so—590 people ahead of me on chat.” By chat McConnell meant the customer service online chat feature that Volusion provides its customers.

Several web sites Volusion.com features on its coporate site as clients today either failed to load or produced an error message informing users to contact customer service with a given reference number. The message did not provide phone or e-mail contact information or clarify if it was referring to the customer service staff of Volusion itself or the client.

On Volusion’s technology status page at Status.Volusion.com, the company blamed the outages on two “unrelated issues.” It said one stemmed from a “delay in completing last night’s session readiness maintenance” and that the other was related to an “automatic reboot of a portion of the Storage Area Network.” It added, “Currently the SAN has been stabilized and engineers have started returning functionality to impacted databases and web application servers. Once these last two steps have been completed, full functionality will be restored for all stores.”

The company also issued a statement later in the day after Internet Retailer requested a comment. It noted that the problem with the SAN “caused a delay in completing one of our final steps in the overall season readiness maintenance that was scheduled on October 11.” 

It added: “Over the past eight weeks, Volusion engineers have been preparing the infrastructure for this year's holiday selling season. During this week's scheduled maintenance window, our routine maintenance involved balancing sites and databases across the infrastructure. Towards the end of the maintenance, there was a cluster of servers which engineers were unable to bring back online. After extensive troubleshooting, our engineers determined that there was an issue with part of the SAN. We worked with representatives from EMC to further troubleshoot the hardware issue. 

“Once the issue was resolved, our team began the process of bringing servers back online. During that process, a portion of the SAN returned an error that initiated a reboot, which in turn impacted additional customers. Volusion engineers then stabilized the SAN and returned functionality to impacted databases and web application servers. At this time, full functionality is being restored to all stores.”

EMC Corp. is a provider of data storage and management systems.

Comments | 4 Responses

  • Thanks for the article. I am the facebook poster referred to and have a few notes to add. As a side piece of research when our Volusion-powered site was down today, I did a few searches on Google with the term: '[name of ecommerce business] site down' (shopify, magento etc), and for all hosted solutions Google returns roughly the same results - complaints about down time, crashes, 500 error pages, etc. Having moved my client from a Wordpress ecommerce plugin & site to Volusion after months of research, I can still say the experience at Volusion has been a blessed relief in comparison. Any hosted ecommerce solution is at risk from the same issues with hardware and software upgrades and version bugs. Going the self-hosted route does not offer any salvation; self-hosted ecommerce solutions compound the problem for many small businesses, who often use poorly supported software with steep learning curves and forever-beta-mode on shared servers and are therefore vulnerable to downtime from server crashes, hacking, or security holes caused elsewhere in the shared hosting biosphere. Interestingly, when I took a look at the Shopify Facebook page, it did seem complaint-free, but that may come from ironclad control of conversations on the page and a business decision to move all support-related discussion off of a marketing and education page for its users rather than being a true indication of downtime rates. Volusion may suffer by comparison simply because they allow the conversation to happen in a public forum - which can then be 'quoted' in an article like this one. Time will tell if we made the right decision to go with Volusion for our client. In the meantime I don't see any alternative companies in the space with a spotless record, and welcome any nominations for a hosted ecommerce solution that is truly bulletproof.

  • much down time as Volusion. completely unacceptable.

  • Nobody has as much down-time as Volusion. Once is an accident, twice is a habit...the 3rd time is a consistent problem and a way of doing business. Completely unacceptable.

  • 11/13/12 Volusion sites go down again as well as the Admin side!!!!

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