Of today’s server-grinding-to-a-halt issues, the question has been asked – couldn’t this be anticipated?
To which the answer is: it was.
We knew that the publicity and the appeal of the subject would bring the site temporarily to its knees. But anticipation is one thing; being able to do something to stop it happening is another. Regardless of what you do to tweak the software, the database, and so on for more efficient performance – and the new site is much better than the old one – any site is ultimately limited by the capacities of the hardware on which it’s hosted. (In fact, the site coped pretty well on Sunday, and we had about four times the normal traffic. Update – Monday’s stats are in! We had about twenty times the normal volume of traffic [memorably described by one journalist as ‘crammed with digital tourists’]. Freakin’ ‘ell.)
But hardware is expensive (even though it has been getting cheaper in recent years); don’t forget this is a small-scale academic institution reliant on public funding. We can’t justify buying what would have been needed for today, even if we could have predicted how much that would actually be, and then have it sitting around doing bugger all for the next five years. That would simply be a waste of limited resources.
And speaking of which, there is one new addition to the site that I haven’t talked about so far, because I hate it like poison: advertising. Unfortunately, it’s the only real way for us to ensure long-term income to maintain (and develop) the site properly. (The structuring of academic funding for this kind of digital project doesn’t really take ongoing maintenance costs into account, beyond basic hosting costs.) It’s text ads only – and if you use Firefox and Adblock Plus (like me), you probably haven’t even seen them, so count yourself lucky. To everyone else: I’m really sorry. Please don’t hate us.