Holiday Hits, Misses for E-Tailers

Two PC manufacturers fared best in this year’s online holiday shopping
onslaught, according to officials at Web site performance monitoring firm
AlertSite Tuesday.

The Web sites for Dell and Gateway
experienced the best response times and success rates among a crop of major
e-commerce sites, notably and

AlertSite rated the top online sellers from Nov. 23 through Dec. 26
on two criteria: response time and success rate.

Every 15 minutes, seven AlertSite servers throughout the United States query the home pages of
the e-tailers to see first whether it was successful, and then to measure the
response time.

Online Shopping Numbers
Site Response Time
(in seconds)
Success Rate 1.77 99.99% 2.12 100% 3.14 99.99% 3.16 99.94% 3.75 99.24% 4.17 99.88% 4.89 98.43 6.01 97.90% 6.18 99.87 7.80 99.9%

Overall, all the companies fared pretty admirably, said Ken Godskind,
AlertSite vice president of marketing, though the group average success rate
of 99.52 falls below his benchmark of 99.7 percent of a “good number.”

“It’s really interesting how online retailing has changed the visibility and
leverage of the stakes,” he said. “If you go to a Wal-Mart and the cashier
is nasty to you, okay, you’ve got one angry, upset customer. But if you’re
Amazon or Wal-Mart and some individual on your staff makes a mistake or
there’s an equipment failure that affects performance on your site, there’s
thousands or tens of thousands or millions of users potentially affected.

“In any environment there are dozens — if not hundreds or thousands — of
pieces of moving parts: equipment, databases, networks, routers, switches
and servers,” he added. “And in those environments, you have both equipment
failures and human mistakes and they’re very amplified. It’s not that
they’re unavoidable, but life isn’t perfect.”

Earlier this month, both and were hit with Web site
outages that kept customers from making purchases online, according to
AlertSite statistics. On Dec. 8, had limited access to its site
for a couple of hours in the morning, while experienced major site
problems for about seven hours on Dec. 6.

Officials at Wal-Mart and were not available for comment at press

Of course, the experience wasn’t a complete loss for According
to the company Monday, it experienced record
for the 2004 holiday season between Nov. 25 and Dec. 23, and a
single-day record of 2.8 million items on one of those days.

“While I think Amazon’s success rate number looks a little low, relatively,
I think they handled some incredible amount of activity this year,” Godskind

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