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Contention manifests itself in a slowing or reduction in response from a system. The cause of the problem results from increased loading on a system or network, such that requests for information and / or processing, are queued within the internal buffers of the system. Where contention becomes extreme, the buffers can overload and the system can fail / crash.

To reduce contention, and hence reduce the risk of system overload, an analysis of the load will need to be performed. A recent example of contention leading to overload was in mid 2,000 in the UK, where a leading Bank launched its e-Banking service. Within hours of the opening, the service was down due to massive contention and overload; concurrent demand had exceeded capacity by an unexpected order of magnitude. See Capacity Planning.

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