The web sites of several high-profile rail and travel organisations crashed this morning, highlighting yet again the need for extra capacity to cope with unexpected demand.
National Rail, South West Trains and Transport for London all went down for periods as huge numbers of travellers checked for updates, despite advance Met Office warnings of adverse weather conditions and subsequent travel problems.
"It is essential that travel providers load-test their web sites 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," said Rob Cotton, chief executive at web site monitoring firm NCC Group.
"The reliability of transport companies is often questioned by the media, so failing to provide up-to-date information on what is likely to be one of the most difficult commuter days of the year could prove damaging."
Thomas Herbert, product manager at hosting firm Hostway, added that building in capacity to cope with surges in demand is one of the first things that companies should think about when setting up their web hosting infrastructure.
"It is unsurprising that the national transport network has once again ground to a halt after a few inches of snow," he said. "However, what is surprising is that transport sites such as nationalrail.co.uk are still failing to build in the capacity to cope with the extra visitors during these weather conditions."
Rob Steggles, marketing director for managed hosting provider NTT Europe Online, said that some organisations balk at requesting extra bandwidth from their hosting firms to cope with eventualities like this, because having redundant bandwidth is expensive.
“However, with the right provider and technology, extra traffic handling capacity could have been put into action almost instantly,” he added.
“The use of modern technologies such as virtualisation and content delivery networks can minimise spare servers sitting idle.”
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