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FlySafair offers GDE advice on crashing site

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The Gauteng Department of Education has had a series of upsets with its new online school registration system, and has suspended it several times since it was supposed to go live last week. FlySafair, which had similar problems with it launched a one-day special offer, has some useful advice for the department.
Each time the site crashes, parents get more frustrated in trying to complete registrations. Now, MEC for Education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi has announced a further delay, giving the department a new deadline of Friday to have the system up and running.
Low-cost airline FlySafair has offered to assist the department with the insights they have relating to this challenge. The company has sent a letter to the Gauteng MEC of Education extending an offer of any advice that they can provide.
“As a company, we are passionate about the need for education in this country, and our IT teams are more than happy to make time available to consult with you if it would be helpful,” the letter reads.
In August 2015, FlySafair held a sale where they offered up to 30 000 flights for just R1 including airport taxes.
“The response was overwhelming,” says Kirby Gordon, vice-president of sales and distribution at FlySafair. “And, despite our best planning efforts, our site was unable to cope with the influx of traffic.”
The airline managed to resurrect the site and extended what was supposed to be a one-day only sale, to a second day in order to ensure that the tickets were sold.
“The experience taught us a lot,” adds Gordon, who confirmed that the airline has since been investing in their web site to prevent the same occurrence with future sales. “We want to be prepared for another big sale,” he adds.
According to FlySafair, there are two fairly quick strategies that the department is probably exploring to cope with the traffic.
Gordon explains that, even if the traffic loads don’t completely crash the site, the number of requests to link people’s home addresses to local schools could be overwhelming the servers resulting in the odd matches that parents are complaining about on social media.
FlySafair believes that one way to scale the service more effectively would be to move the service off of a local server-based infrastructure on to a cloud-based platform. If the present system relies on a specific server stack, the amount of processing capacity available to the website will be finite in terms of what those servers can handle. A cloud-based solution will better spread this processing load across any number of servers worldwide, which could help the department greatly.
“The other thing that can be done is to limit the number of people using the service at any one time” says Gordon. The best way to do this is to create a “waiting room”. He explains that this sort of thing is used on ticketing websites for big concert ticket sell-outs. Essentially, the department would create a “holding pen” that would then feed traffic through to the website at a pace that it can handle.