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Report: Mobile Websites Need to Prepare for Outages

Wed, 03/21/2012 - 7:16am
Andrew Berg

Keynote Systems' March Mobile News and Portal Index saw reliability of the Fox News mobile site drop 10.14 percent from February.

The company noticed that on March 19, Fox's mobile site went down (with the exception for some iPhone users on the West Coast) without warning and without instructions for end users. What mobile users saw was “'page unable to load.”

Hermand Ng, mobile performance evangelist for Keynote, says episodes like the one Fox experienced show a lack of preparation.

"In the last year, many companies have made the mistake of not preparing for routine maintenance or do not have practices in place to handle large amounts of traffic when unexpected news events arise (i.e. Bin Laden's Death)," Ng Said.

Ng adds that companies like CNN learned from events that affected mobile traffic and began re-directing visitors to the full site, or at least another location where they could find what they were looking for. 

"When websites undergo routine maintenance, unexpected outages or higher mobile traffic than normal, the user experience becomes slow and sometimes non-existent," Ng said.

Keynote suggest websites that are undergoing routine maintenance create a placeholder message page that informs users when the site will be available again. In the event of a traffic spike, organizations can re-direct their mobile users to its standard website. Or, organizations can do a combination of the two and show a message page with any necessary information and a link to the standard website.

"In addition, if organizations want to pre-empt any unexpected mobile occurrences they can also pre-set limits where mobile users who are waiting for an extended period of time will automatically re-direct to an available page," Ng said, adding that communication is key. 

"In cases like Fox News, sharing a website with any type of informative content is better than nothing," he said.

Overall, the average page load time in the News and Portal Index for March was 18.09 seconds, an increase of 1.96 seconds compared to February. Average Reliability was 96.90 percent, a slight decrease of .46 percentage points compared to the previous month.

Facebook had the fastest page load time of 4.01 seconds, while Microsoft's Bing had the highest reliability of 99.56 percent, pushing out Google from February. Facebook maintains the fastest speed on the news and portal index and has the lowest amount of Kbytes downloaded overall. However, Google’s site downloaded approximately 19 objects/second, while Facebook only downloaded 3 objects/second.

Keynote repeatedly tests the sites in the index hourly and around the clock from four locations over the four major U.S. wireless networks,  emulating the browsers of four different devices:  the iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC EVO (Android operating system) on Sprint, the Motorola Droid X (Android operating system) on Verizon wireless and the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile. Data is collected from San Francisco, New York, Dallas and Chicago and then aggregated to provide an overall monthly average in terms of both speed and reliability.

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