Why your site needs performance testing: A cautionary tale from Nouvola’s own backyard

Posted by on June 13, 2014 9:21pm

(or, Not for sexy businesses only: Why your site needs performance testing) 

bigstock-Road-Spurt-Water-Beside-Traffi-79113334You say you’re not a retailer with millions of customers you need to keep happy. Or a news site or a social media site prone to sudden surges in usage. Maybe you don’t serve shoppers, or gamers or teenage kids or any of the other audiences you think of when you think of when you think of managing virtual crowds.

Chances are, you still need performance testing.

Last month Portland’s Water Bureau learned this lesson the hard way when it detected E. coli in the water supply and had to notify residents of the city and surrounding areas. The bureau had a clear plan in place for getting the word out over its website and social media. But that plan proved not to be foolproof when the bureau’s website crashed under the weight of heavy traffic. It took hours to recover.

That’s right. Even municipalities, even seemingly boring utilities, even sites that deal with things as basic as tap water are subject to sudden surges if interest. And like the website gearing up for a big sale on handbags or toys, they need to be prepared.

In fact, given the health hazards that arise when something does go wrong with a public water supply, it’s all the more imperative that municipalities like Portland Water make sure they are able to distribute information rapidly and effectively. The city of Portland was very diligent about compiling the right information on the website but once the site crashed that information was useless. The city ultimately called a press conference to alert the media.

And, while I’m sure the city of Portland has learned its lesson, this unfortunate event does serve as a timely reminder for consumer-facing operations of all sorts, as well as for the businesses like Nouvola that build the technology. Technology companies all tend to talk about ‘target customer,’ when in reality the technology we’re building is increasingly universal. Have website: Must test it. It’s really as simple as that. It doesn’t really matter what your website does or who it serves. Even the most useful and well-designed website can crash under the weight of excessive traffic. You can’t predict when these surges will happen any more than the Portland Water Bureau could have predicted E. Coli would be detected in its supply. They key is to test ahead of time.

My favorite analogy is to see software like a bridge in the physical world. Opening your site to traffic without knowing how much traffic it can sustain is like building a bridge without measuring the load it can bear.

Nouvola‘s technology lets businesses and municipalities ⬦ anyone with a public-facing website ⬦ run traffic scenarios ahead of time so that they can know in advance what will happen in peak traffic. It’s simple ⬦ and it would have been useful the Friday before Memorial Day when the Portland Water Bureau was scrambling to alert residents about the E. coli risk.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly with your comments and inputs via paola dot moretto at nouvola dot com. You can find me on Twitter at @paolamoretto3 or @nouvolatech.