Thousands of Web sites go down in move of data

Alabanza's new owner encounters problems

November 07, 2007|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,Sun reporter

Thousands of Web sites once hosted by Baltimore's Alabanza have been down for days as the company's new owner - NaviSite Inc. - tries to move data to its Massachusetts headquarters.

The outages have cut off businesses from their e-mail and e-commerce systems and caused an uproar on- line.

"This has been a major disaster. There are lots and lots of small businesses out there that have been severely harmed by this, because they were not able to transact business, they were not able to engage in sales," said Cynthia Brumfield, a Bethesda media industry analyst who began blogging about the trouble after her own sites went offline.

"It's very distressful," Brumfeld said.

Service resumed for some sites, including most of Brumfield's, yesterday afternoon - after four days of downtime.

NaviSite, which bought Alabanza in August, did not return calls for comment yesterday.

A statement on its Web site said certain Internet requests "were overloading the network" and that the company was working to stabilize the situation.

"We are committed to providing [Alabanza clients] with the latest information on the migration and will provide additional updates on this page - as they become available," the statement read last night.

The trouble began over the weekend as NaviSite began the process of moving Alabanza's worldwide customers to its servers, according to those who lost Web service. NaviSite held a conference call last month to inform Alabanza clients about the move, which was originally planned for an earlier date, and also sent e-mail outlining the process.

"Please be aware that this is a client-impacting event and there will be downtime during this move," one Oct. 19 message sent to Brumfield read. It also said the anticipated outages would last no more than 12 hours, from midnight to noon.

Once it was clear that sites would be down for much longer, customers began to get testy, turning Brumfield's blog ( into a clearinghouse for complaints.

Before the sale to NaviSite, Alabanza powered as many as 200,000 Web sites and also enabled other companies to lease space and provide hosting services themselves.

Bob Tyrrell, a Connecticut Web designer, signed up for accounts from one of those secondary hosts and built part of his business around it, creating and maintaining sites for 15 clients.

They all lost Web operations over the weekend. As of last night, two were back up and running.

"So far, the customers mostly affected are being very patient, and they understand the circumstances, that it's not my fault," Tyrrell said yesterday. "But they are annoyed, of course. What's really hurting a lot of people is the e-mail outages."

One client expected his new site to go live yesterday, timing it to appear the day he was giving a talk and likely planning to use his new e-mail for networking, Tyrell said.

"My hope is that everything comes back online by the time I wake up tomorrow morning," Tyrrell said last night. "I have one customer in particular who totally relies on e-mail - she's a consultant - and it's really given her a lot of anxiety."

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