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CyberSource causes e-commerce frustration

With the holiday shopping season taking off, merchants using CyberSource's credit card authorization system swallow a bitter pill as the company known as the "power behind the buy button" goes offline.

With the holiday shopping season taking off, merchants using CyberSource's credit card authorization system swallowed a bitter pill when the company known as the "power behind the buy button" went offline Friday.

CyberSource said its systems went down around 9 a.m. PT on Friday and remained down through the afternoon because of difficulty configuring its hardware and software.

While a slew of e-commerce sites--including Beyond.com, eBay and Amazon.com--have experienced intermittent outages as volume to their sites surges, CyberSource said that it was not affected by its growing traffic.

"There were no scalability issues involved," William Donahoo, vice president of marketing, said. "The interruption was caused by an operational configuration on our part. It should not have happened."

The glitch even affected the company's backup systems.

CyberSource has over 400 active merchants and processes over 2 million e-commerce transaction per month. Merchants using the service include Compaq Computer, Beyond.com, Buy.com and Shopping.com.

The company said the problem was quickly brought under control Friday, but some merchants still were quite shaken by the interruption.

"[The company] basically killed all those stores that rely on CyberSource for credit card authorization during that time," said one merchant who asked to remain anonymous. "We lost dozens of thousands of dollars."

This merchant said he plans at least to look at CyberSource's competitors, including CyberCash and eFalcon, as alternatives to switch to whenever necessary.

"The problem was finally fixed around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.," the merchant said. "Till then, the store was closed."