Bank of America hit with online banking glitches

By Todd R. Weiss, Computerworld |  Business

Bank of America Corp.'s online banking services are apparently back to normal operations today after three days of sporadic outages and slowdowns that kept many customers from accessing their accounts using the Internet.

Eloise Hale, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte, N.C.-based financial giant, confirmed that an unspecified "network connectivity problem" caused online access problems for customers throughout the week.

During the outages, customers were either unable to log on to the bank's Web site or the site's online banking features operated very slowly, she said.

Yesterday, customers nationwide found the site down completely from about 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Eastern time, Hale said, while on Tuesday and Wednesday sporadic service outages were experienced only by online banking customers in California.

The undisclosed problems were apparently fixed early today, she said, and the system is now operating normally. "It is up and running and we are monitoring it very closely," Hale said.

During the outages, customers who were able to access the bank's Internet home page were directed to call a toll-free phone number to continue their banking over the telephone until the problems were resolved, Hale said.

George Barto, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said this week's outages at Bank of America weren't that different from occasional IT problems that cause computer systems to temporarily go down in brick-and-mortar banking offices. "It's how you react to [such problems] that's most important," Barto said. "When those kinds of things happen, there have to be contingencies."

And on that score, Barto added, Bank of America did the right thing by letting customers know that they could still bank by phone during the outages. Many customers live far from bank offices and only have easy access to banking services via the Internet or telephones, he said.

Last August, Bank of America announced plans to spend an additional $70 million on technology, including e-commerce, credit-card and business-to-business payment systems and systems for Web-enabling branches and call centers. The company, formerly NationsBank Corp. until it merged with San Francisco-based Bank of America in 1999, also announced at the time that up to 10,000 workers would be laid off, including some in IT.

Last March, Bank of America announced that about 2 million customers, or 7% of its depositors, had signed up for its online banking services.

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