Thought for the day:Heavy Internet traffic needn't be taxing

Chris Hemingway suggests how the Inland Revenue could have made life far easier for itself.Well, it hardly came as a shock. After...

Chris Hemingway suggests how the Inland Revenue could have made life far easier for itself.Well, it hardly came as a shock. After two years and countless millions spent on heavy promotion of the Government's much-vaunted online tax self-assessment process, the inevitable has happened. The Inland Revenue Web site has become overloaded - refusing access to thousands of users and giving sluggish, disrupted service to those lucky enough to get on.

There is an air of predictability about these endeavours to simplify government process and make life easier for citizens. The idea is great, it benefits all parties but it is simply not thought through sufficiently. After the failure to attract many subscribers to last year's online self-assessment Web site, the rush this year has bowled the system over. And yet it could all have been different.

So how can organisations ensure that their Web sites are fully equipped to deal with unforeseen volumes of traffic? The answer lies in what's commonly known as a content distribution network, or CDN.

A CDN is a layer of intelligent software that enables you to distribute Web content on top of an existing IP infrastructure. CDNs accelerate Web sites and the delivery of content, including static HTTP and streaming media. They also act as a platform for centralised management and monitoring of distributed Internet infrastructures.

Here's how it works: by storing frequently accessed content locally across a network, content can be accessed at LAN speeds rather than WAN/Internet speeds. This means that surges in traffic are distributed across these local access points, making the Web site more robust.

Overall, CDNs eliminate network bottlenecks and improve network performance and quality of service even during spikes in demand. They are also equipped to cope with future demands, scaling as network demands grow.

Take CNN as an example. With more than a billion daily users, the news portal faced congestion when breaking news created spikes in traffic. In response, it implemented a CDN solution that enabled the site to handle upwards of two million hits per minute.

If the Inland Revenue had implemented such a system, it could easily have coped with hundreds of thousands of Internet requests every minute. The last-minute rush to submit tax returns would not have resulted in the Inland Revenue's Web site crashing and, just maybe, the Government would feel confident it could handle the expected rise in users next year.

What's your view?
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Chris Hemingway is Volera's general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Volera delivers e-business networking solutions.

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