Snow-related queries put unprecedented load on unprepared commuter websites

Three commuter travel information web sites were unable to cope with increased number of enquiries this morning about disruptions due to snow falls across southern England. Was poor load testing to blame for their inability to cope with the circumstances?

Three commuter travel information web sites were unable to cope with increased number of enquiries this morning about disruptions due to snow falls across southern England.

National Rail's site was downed when visitors to the site peaked at six times the normal.

Problems were also reported with the web sites for South West Trains and Transport for London, but neither was able to say to what extent they were affected or how site visits compared with normal levels.

All three sites were later working normally, but Thomas Herbert, product manager at web hosting firm Hostway UK said it is surprising that transport sites are still failing to build in the capacity to cope with the extra visitors such events bring to their sites.

Despite forewarning, travel companies underestimated the number of commuters logging on, said Rob Cotton, chief executive at IT services organisation, NCC Group.

"It is essential that travel providers load test their websites ahead of periods of expected high volumes of traffic to avoid costly downtime, which can be damaging to an organisation’s image and leave travellers in limbo," he said.

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