Avalara is an outsourced Sales Tax processor who have a link for the Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 accounting system. As you process sales orders the program reaches out over the Internet to the Avalara servers to compute the exact tax based on shipping location and other appropriate tax rules.
One Sage VAR described the January 21, 2009 outage as “six hours” while another reported only varying lengths of time and their connection problems were only described as “slow”.
According to an email just shared, Avalara has this explanation:
Yesterday Avalara’s Avatax system suffered a disruption caused by an unexpected error during a routine maintenance activity. This error impacted multiple systems and required intensive effort to restore all functionality. During this time, customers experienced varying levels of disruption, from complete outage to slow response times. Detailed analysis has resulted in the establishment of several new processes and procedures designed to eliminate the possibility of a recurrence of this or similar issues. In addition, Avalara is in the process of implementing a significant hardware upgrade that will dramatically improve the reliability and performance or our system. Additional reliability related improvements are planned for release during the first half of 2009. We apologize for the inconvenience and seek to assure you and all customers that we are committed to constantly improving the dependability of our technology and service.
Generally acknowledged as a good sales tax service, the Avalara weakness seems to be both the reliance on a remote Internet site to calculate sales tax and return the proper amounts (when the site is down so is your tax calculation) as well as some speed issues with calculating tax on large sales orders.
The workaround for times when the tax service may be unavailable (and we haven’t heard of any other widespread outages like this) is to change the tax code from the Avalara provided code to another. Then when service returns, swap the code back to Avalara and re-calculate the tax. This provides a mini-workaround that would unfortunately result in a delayed posting of invoices until the tax could be re-computed.
Resellers who work with Avalara on a daily basis report that new software connectors supplied by the company appear to resolve some of the slow speed and connectivity issues.