What we can learn from Facebook's 30 minute outage

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Facebook is at the heart of delivering applications to a generation of content-hungry consumers, who expect short, intense experiences and flawless execution when they engage with brands. Because of this, companies like Facebook invest millions to ensure their platforms are robust enough to withstand almost any situation.

Apps look simple to the user, but under the hood they are often incredibly complex. When someone Likes a post on Facebook or places a comment, a single click triggers millions of lines of code and activates thousands of servers, so managing these applications is challenging.

This week's outage goes to show, that despite this investment, focus and effort, even Facebook can suffer from performance problems and outages. In these situations, it is key for businesses to have a deep understanding of the interactions users are making with their applications.

The public outcry surrounding Facebook's 30 minutes of downtime echoes findings from our new research: consumers can be more loyal to a brand's app than to the brand itself, having little patience for slowdowns and even less for outages.

This is indicative of the seismic shift we're witnessing in how customers are interacting with and buying from organizations. These days, much of the interaction between consumers and businesses is via a mobile app -- according to research by Kleiner Perkins, mobile applications now account for 25 percent of all internet traffic, with 1.6 billion users around the world.

Those users expect their experience to be flawless. Nearly half of the 2,000 respondents we surveyed said they were less tolerant of problems with apps or websites than they were just a few years ago.

With so many social networks and messaging apps available, if consumers experience slowdown or outages, it is extremely easy for them to switch and use alternative platforms. This means that businesses are losing customers, confirmed by our research: 56 percent said they'd experienced a mobile app crashing in the past 12 months, an experience that 62 percent said was "frustrating" -- and some 20 percent said that a crash meant they were less likely to use the app or website again.

The lesson is that users are most likely to look for an alternative when an app or website crashes -- 38 percent said that they would look elsewhere, while 23 percent said they would stop using that website altogether.

Yesterday's outage serves as a reminder that we are living in an applications economy, where just seconds of downtime can have a severe impact on business revenues and customer loyalty. In Facebook's case, some estimate the social network lost $500,000 in ad revenue.

For many organizations today, business success is now defined by software. Applications not only contribute to corporate performance, they are the main source of revenue for an increasing number of businesses spanning multiple sectors, retail to banking, media to travel. These companies, such as Expedia, iTunes and Nike, need to have a range of tools at their disposal to monitor the performance of their IT back ends which can then respond quickly to -- or even predict -- problems before their users notice and go elsewhere.

These tools provide application intelligence which ensure business certainty. Certainty helps trains run on time, multinational chains run like clockwork, and enables the impossibly complex to become elegantly efficient. It is the deployment and use of such tools in a business environment that depends extensively on the performance of its software that is one of the defining factors of an age in which "software is eating the world", as Marc Andreessen, one of the key entrepreneurs of the web age, so astutely put it.

Customers who have come of age in the digital world are demanding. Whether making an online purchase, streaming video and music content or checking a bank balance, they demand flawless execution of the technology they utilize.

For the businesses that focus on delivering the best user experience, the rewards are high. Our research revealed that 32 percent of those responding would spend more money with an organization that has a good mobile app, while 30 percent said they would be prepared to pay more for a product or service if the provider's app performed better than that of a rival.

The bottom line is that organizations must deliver a reliable, consistent mobile experience. Key to this is having the necessary Application Intelligence so that any problems can be anticipated or rapidly solved.

Tom Levey is a tech evangelist for AppDynamics.

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