J.Crew, OfficeMax, Blackwell To Get Coal In Their Uptime Stockings

'Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you're in charge of uptime at upscale retailer J.Crew's Web site. Having suffered outages during Cyber Monday, J.Crew again became unavailable—to at least some prospective customers—for an extended period on Wednesday (Dec. 17). In doing so, J.Crew's site joined a group of Web properties that continued having a tough time this holiday season. Perhaps the crew at J.Crew can take solace in knowing their counterparts at Sephora are in the same boat, as are those manning the store at Officedepot.com. On Monday (Dec. 15), the sites for both Sephora and Office Depot put on repeat performances of the unavailability issues they demonstrated earlier this month. Sporadic outages were seen at other seemingly glitchy sites. Office Max, which went offline for a half-hour on December 5, went belly-up for a similar duration on Tuesday (Dec. 16). CDUniverse.com was unavailable on December 2, December 7 and December 14, with each outage lasting six or seven minutes. And CDW lived through a short outage, about 10 minutes, during the late night hours of December 12. The nature of the outages were such that it was hard to determine causes, whether they were maintenance efforts, traffic hiccups or something else. Online shoppers hoping to place an order with the site operated by Blackwell, one of the largest book chains in the United Kingdom, which ships more than 3 million books a year, were out of luck for much of December 10. Site traffic monitoring firm Pingdom said Blackwell.com's problems began at 4:30 AM London time, with an outage that lasted for four hours and 15 minutes. Another crash hit at 2:50 PM and lasted 50 minutes. Then, at 5:10 PM, a third problem left the site unavailable for two more hours. Minor issues riddled Blackwell.com the next day, said Pingdom, noting they only caused brief periods of unavailability. Back in the United States, the U.S. Postal Service was dealing with a series of problems that plagued its popular Click-N-Ship service for several days. But at least the postal folk called some of their customers to apologize. Over at J.Crew, though, no apologies were offered. For those who know the tortured history of J.Crew and its site launch this summer, perhaps avoiding an apology was wise. This time, the site advised visitors to "stay tuned" and added that "even the best sites aren't perfect." True. But as far as uptime goes, it's clear that some sites are less perfect than others.

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