Salesforce.com outage cuts users off

Salesforce.com's service was unreachable for many customers on Tuesday, an outage the company did not immediately explain.

Salesforce.com's "on demand" CRM (customer relationship management) system came up short in meeting demand on Tuesday, when some customers found the hosted software service unreachable for most of the day.

It was unclear how widespread the outage was -- while some customers reported no problems with the service, others saw their access cut off early Tuesday morning and remain down through most of the afternoon. On the blog Salesforcewatch.com, a customer posted a screen capture of the error message he and other users saw for several hours.

A Salesforce.com spokeswoman was unaware of the cause or extent of the company's outage when contacted Tuesday. Subsequent attempts to reach other spokespeople were unsuccessful.

One affected customer, technology consultant and entrepreneur Jason Klemow, said it was the first time in the year he's been subscribing to Salesforce.com that the service crashed. He was finally able to log in to Salesforce.com shortly before 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, after the service had been unreachable for at least five hours. Klemow had searched in vain for details from Salesforce.com on its outage: No status information was posted on Salesforce.com's Web site, and a customer service number offered only a recorded message advising that the company was experiencing technical difficulties.

Klemow, who works from Maryland, said he hopes Salesforce.com fills customers in on what happened. In the meantime, he'll take steps to prepare for any future outages. "I'm going to do more synching with [Microsoft] Outlook to be sure I have my contacts when I'm offline," he said.

Salesforce.com, based in San Francisco, has more than 350,000 subscribers for its CRM service, which offers customers hosted, managed software on a per-user monthly subscription basis. The company's turnkey approach has helped pioneer the market for "on demand" or "software-as-a-service" offerings that outsource the work of managing enterprise applications.

While outsourced application services can simplify customers' software deployments, they also carry the security and downtime risks of remotely located and managed systems. Earlier this year, Salesforce.com announced it would spend US$50 million to set up redundant East Coast and West Coast data centers with rapid data replication and failover capabilities, an initiative it dubbed "MirrorForce."

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