Lack of capacity planning causes online projects to fail, says Mike Lucas.
A couple of weeks ago, I was excited to hear that a new film called This is Not a Love Song was to be launched on the internet. Great, I thought, new and innovative services are beginning to be offered to broadband users.
How wrong I was to get excited. When I went to the site the film was unavailable. The site had crashed because too many people had tried to download it at once.
This incident brought back memories of previous online initiatives that have failed because of a lack of capacity planning.
In early 2001, banking services from one of the largest online banks simply disappeared. Although customers could access front-end information, they were blocked from accessing the secure servers that held their account details, leaving millions of people without banking facilities for a whole week.
There was also, more recently, the online failure of one of the leading loyalty card scheme companies. Millions of people were encouraged to register for the card online when it was launched in 2002. The website was flooded by millions of customers trying to register within the launch period to take advantage of the incentives being offered. This resulted in the site having to be suspended for three days to enable capacity to be increased.
That is why the latest crash was such a disappointment - the organisers had not learned from previous failures.
When launching a new online service, surely it would be sensible to ensure there is enough capacity to meet demand, or at least that parameters are in place to enable a certain number of people to access the site.
By using prediction and testing technologies, organisations can work out how many users an online service can cope with and can then set a limit so that only a certain number of users are allowed to log in at any one time.
This will guarantee visitors a high level of service and, once capacity is exceeded, other users trying to log on to the site would be presented with a message asking them to revisit the site later.
This approach will not only ensure that online services do not crash, but will also stop online services being forced to invest in extra capacity for one-off peaks in demand. As broadband uptake increases, many businesses will be faced with these issues.
In short, by taking a common sense approach and working out the breaking points of services before deployment to the market, organisations can implement sensible business models to support demand.
What do you think?
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Mike Lucas is regional technology manager at Compuware UK