Ever type a URL into your browser’s navigation bar and omit the ‘www.’ prefix? Of course you have, because most sites are set up nowadays to make the ‘www.’ unnecessary for the end user. So on Monday when I tried to pay some bills I was greeted with incredibly long wait times. Kind of defeats the purpose of the convenience of online banking, doesn’t it?
This was exactly my experience as a Citi customer this week (my wait time was over 72 seconds), so I decided to investigate the matter further to see if we could find the root of the problem. After setting up two tests, one going to citibank.com and the other to www.citibank.com, I found some illuminating results.
As you can see, the site URL that included the ‘www.’ prefix (shown on the right) performed very well. Availability was near 100 percent, and the webpage response time was generally under one second.
Failing to enter the ‘www.’ prefix, however, meant that the user was facing roughly a 50-50 chance that the site would even be available, and if it was they would likely have to wait around 10 seconds for it to load. Faced with delays like that, it’s a good bet that many people just gave up and decided to try again some other time.
Digging a little deeper, we discovered that entering ‘citibank.com’ into your browser would direct you to one of two IP addresses, whose performances are shown here:
The IP address on the right goes to a server in Dallas, while the malfunctioning one on the left goes to Houston. So maybe the Houston server emulates the city’s football team and took the week off, but then Citi should probably take it offline.
This sort of situation highlights the importance of testing your site from outside of your own datacenter or internal servers, because otherwise situations like this could go unnoticed. Meanwhile, thousands of users could be typing citibank.com into their browsers and encountering this type of poor performance. And if it becomes a regular occurrence, many could decide to take their banking to a competitor whose site doesn’t experience this kind of problem.
Mehdi – Catchpoint