Online insurance company esure has employed a Wily web performance management tool from Computer Associates to ensure its website availability remained close to 100% throughout its summer sale, despite peaks in CPU demand created by an online marketing partner regularly screen scraping its websites.
The insurer runs J Sainsbury's motor insurance website, but it also sells the group's insurance policies through online aggregator Moneysupermarket - a website that enables customers to compare insurance premiums.
Moneysupermarket uses screen-scraping to extract data, which puts pressure on companies' front-end systems, rather than directly linking to their back-office systems using XML.
Esure's IT director Mark Foulsham said, "This places very high loads on us. We get huge CPU spikes if we get requests from Moneysupermarket.
"Rather than a customer using the website to go from start to finish with a quote request, the aggregators have to run their scripts in multiples to switch on some of the different policy options."
Using the Wily performance management tool, esure managed to achieve 100% uptime for four of the first nine months of this year. For the rest of the time, it said its uptime was "close to 100%".
Moneysupermarket is expected to set up XML messaging between its systems and esure's systems by the end of this year, which will eliminate the need for screen scraping
Richard Mason, joint managing director at Moneysupermarket, said, "It is always our preference to have an XML link with an insurance company.
"XML can be more robust because it removes the pressure on the web front end."
What are screen scrapers?
Website pages contain a wealth of useful data but they are usually designed for human consumption, mixing images and multimedia with text. Screen scrapers extract the machine-friendly text data from the web-page display. The emergence of XML means that screen scraping can be eliminated.
This was first published in October 2006