The perils of popularity – dealing with web traffic spikes

During the summer, calendars are filled with festivals and events, and whether it’s Bestival, Glastonbury, Wimbledon or even Henley Regatta, each of these events will have a website as a vital focal point.

Each event organiser understands the technology challenges of dealing with varying levels of web traffic and, in particular, very large spikes of interest when key announcements are made.

Technology failures caused by web traffic spikes can be expensive and embarrassing, yet they still happen with predictable regularity. Many of these websites simply aren’t prepared to cope with upsurges in user activity.

Festivals, for example, have grown enormously in popularity over the years and nearly every weekend in the summer there is one taking place. This growth has put a huge demand on the IT infrastructure that underpins their websites. The positive deviations in web traffic illustrate the challenges event organisers face; demand has grown as more and more people access the latest event information from their mobile devices. It is therefore essential that all event websites are not only mobile-optimised, but also designed with an infrastructure able to cope with these seasonal peaks and troughs.

As Bruce Hay, Head of Digital at Bestival, the September festival on the Isle of Wight, explains: “Our website is integral to our event’s success, allowing us to promote and inform festival-goers of what’s happening and why they should join us in September. Through the website, which is managed year round by an in-house team, our festival-goers have access to the latest information, and they need this wherever they are and no matter how many others are online. Our adoption of cloud technology, above all, gives us the confidence that when we’re due to make a big announcement, the website will soak up the pressure and the users never notice any degradation in performance.”

This adoption of cloud technology via Managed Service Providers (MSPs) is proving increasingly popular for organisations that need to scale their requirements and manage traffic spikes with flexibility. The approach gives them the ability to add capacity on a temporary basis – and in the case of Bestival – at times when they can predict an increase in website visits.

This capacity can then be scaled back again during quieter periods, and users also have added scope to test for different traffic scenarios without taking their site offline; so they use what they pay for, making it much more cost effective.

Tips for creating a resilient website:

  • Insist on an IT infrastructure that is both scalable and flexible
  • Be prepared in advance for jumps in traffic, rather than having to cope with a crisis
  • Ensure the infrastructure is fully tested to ensure that bursts in website activity do not lead to sudden and costly downtime

Most importantly, understanding your infrastructure will ensure your website is up and running at all times and able to cope with any increases in demand.

Campbell Williams, Group Strategy & Marketing Director, Six Degrees

Image source: Shutterstock/Creativa Images