November 30, 2011, 11:33 AM

After multiple site crashes, tries to regroup in time for the holidays

After multiple site crashes, tries to regroup in time for the holidays.

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No one ever said life beyond Amazon would be easy. Target Corp. found that out the hard way in recent months after migrating its e-commerce site off of its long-time home on a platform hosted by Inc.

The new site, built in-house over a two-year period with e-commerce technology from IBM Corp. and site search provider Endeca Technologies Inc. (which is being acquired by Oracle Corp.), was designed to offer more product recommendations, better gift registries and improved graphics, Target said in announcing the new site last summer. "Establishing a new platform for allows Target to reinvent our guests' online environment and create a more user-friendly, reliable experience," then-president of Steve Eastman said.

But by mid-October, Target was looking for a new online president as Eastman resigned "to pursue other opportunities" following multiple site crashes that left unavailable to shoppers for hours at a time. The site suffered at least five general outages between mid-September and early November, in one case for about six hours, according to AlertBot, a company that monitors web site performance.

On the evening of Nov. 4, experienced a series of seven outages for a total downtime of nearly three hours, AlertBot says. "If this was scheduled maintenance, it was poor timing and poor execution with the web site going up and down," says Justin Noll, sales and marketing manager at AlertBot. Target said the site was down on Nov. 4 for a total of 1 hour and 35 minutes, but gave no details.

The experience of Target since the new site launch provides a warning for other e-retailers.

The first outage on the new, in September, appeared to stem from the site not being able to handle a big spike in traffic prompted by the launch of Target's new Missoni apparel line—an issue that could have been avoided by better preliminary load testing, Noll says. "This same problem happens every year to a few large e-commerce sites on Black Friday and Cyber Monday," he says, referring to the day after Thanksgiving and the first Monday after Thanksgiving, both popular days for online shopping.

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