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Global online marketing company left red-faced after failing to renew its own domain name, causing outages

Dominic Powell /

Global online marketing software company Marketo has been left red-faced after failing to renew its own domain name, resulting in an outage of its website and other hosting services.

Marketo provides email marketing services to a number of businesses and other customers around the world, and critically, uses its own hosting services to track user interactions with links in its emails.

The Register reports the company’s customers experienced an unexpected outage on Tuesday morning, and were unable to access any of the company’s online login services. All hyperlinks and images within email campaigns were also broken.

The company issued a Tweet shortly after notifying customers it was looking into the outage, however one savvy customer beat them to the solution, finding that their domain was available to purchase in an online domain marketplace.

“I renewed your domain @Marketo . Hopefully things will be back up soon,” Twitter user Travis Prebble posted.

For a total of $US74, Prebble had got the key which would fix the company’s widespread outage, with Marketo’s chief executive Steve Lucas responding to his tweet, saying “I am grateful to you for your help today. It means a lot that you care enough to take action. Thank you”.

The services eventually came back online, with Lucas notifying customers through Twitter anyone still affected could email him personally with an inquiry. Slowly it came to light that the company had failed to automatically renew its domain name, a situation that has prompted experts to warn businesses about the importance of staying vigilant.

“It has reached the point where a website is more important than the front office for a business,” Craig Reardon, founder of web services firm The E Team told SmartCompany.

“It’s absolutely critical that things like domains are kept as sacrosanct as far as the entire business. It’s not just an operations thing.”

“And for web-centric businesses, losing your domain name is akin to driving a truck through the front of your building.”

Reardon believes some SME owners might be cagey about renewing or registering domain names due to a number of scams in recent times impersonating web hosting companies. Due to this, he recommends business owners stay vigilant, noting that domain name fraud is a “real problem” for business owners.

As was seen in this case when a Marketo client purchased the domain, as soon as domain names are failed to be renewed, they can be snatched up by opportune individuals or companies, which IT services firm Combo founder David Markus warns is a regular occurence.

“There are huge waiting lists for domain names, and if your domain is on that list and people are actively requesting it, you can lose it in a very short period of time,” he told SmartCompany.

Most services will provide business owners the option to automatically renew domain names, a feature Markus says “you’d have to be stupid not to use”.

“If you’re invested in your business your website is a way to attract clients, and you don’t want to lose that due to a bit of poor maintenance,” he says.

In a statement to SmartCompany, a spokesperson for Marketo said “all Marketo web domains experienced access issues with our DNS that affected all Marketo instances. It did not affect product performance. We acted immediately to remediate the issue”.

“While the propagation of the Marketo domain started early on the morning of July 25, completion will vary depending upon local propagation settings. We expect most customers to have access to the Marketo.com domains shortly,” the spokesperson said.

The company has since posted a FAQ and explainer on its website detailing any issues which may have been caused as a result of the outage.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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