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More Software Testing Holiday Blunders

As yet further proof of the necessity of software testing using solid ISEB and ISTQB principles, we saw a couple major software glitches rear their ugly heads this holiday season. 

First, Comcast broadband customers experienced a widespread outage on, of all days, Cyber Monday (November 29th)! 

Cyber Monday is essentially the online equivalent of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US where millions of bargain-hungry shoppers flood the streets like 3rd-rate zombies looking for brains.  Each year, more and more shoppers choose to forego the chaos of the local mall and instead find deep discounts by doing their holiday shopping online, and as such thousands of online retailers invest heavily in making sure every aspect of their site’s functionality, usability, performance, and marketing is completely up to snuff for the big event.

Unfortunately for many retailers, despite their best efforts, they were nearly undermined by the major outage that Comcast suffered just hours before Cyber Monday.  Comcast broadband customers were unable to access their favorite shopping sites because their Internet access went down.  The glitch originated within the Comcast DNS servers, which facilitate the translation of IP addresses into domain names to enable web browsing.

The network outage impacted densely-populated areas like Boston, Washington DC, and parts of New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia.  Luckily, Comcast was able to fix the problem around midnight so there was very little impact on retailers. 

The second major glitch erroneously drained the balances on thousands of Australian debit / credit cards just as the holiday shopping season began to ramp up.  The glitch at NAB caused regular payments to be debited multiple times, and in some cases knocked card holders’ balances into negative territory, preventing them from making legitimate purchases.  The bank is in the process of correcting the bug and restoring customers’ balances, but unfortunately for those impacted customers, this could take some time.

There really is no moral to this story that I can think of, only a warning: regardless of preparation, no one is immune from online disaster. Just optimize your software testing efforts as best you can and solely focus on events you can control, the rest will take care of itself…for better or for worse!

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