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July 5 2016

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Wirebox have developed a website for the popular science publisher New Scientist, to promote an event they are hosting at ExCel London from the 22nd September, 2016.

The WordPress website was developed with the expectation that the website would receive high volumes of traffic through visitors from many different sources. Some of these sources, such as their own website and social media sites, would be under the direct control of New Scientist, but the nature of the promotion and popular recognition of the magazine also created the potential for viral traffic and many referring sites.

The New Scientist Facebook account has in excess of 3 million users — their Twitter profile has over 2 million — so a single post or tweet to either of these platforms could deliver a high volume of visitors in a matter of seconds. In addition, new posts or blogs on their own website referencing this new event would create a high volume of traffic from all over the world. New Scientist have full command of their social media posting, using the analytics of the traffic to their websites to determine the different effect individual stories or posts have on their websites. This information allowed us to understand when spikes in traffic may occur, but we also needed to be sure that the website could manage high volumes of unexpected traffic at any time.

The term “Slashdot effect” was mentioned, as was the “hug of death” from sites such as Reddit, Digg or even Twitter and Facebook. In essence, we needed to ensure that with all the advertising and online promotion scheduled, the website could consistently manage thousands of concurrent users.

The hosting solution of choice

As part of the business’ existing infrastructure, the New Scientist site utilised AWS. It was decided a new AWS account would be replicated, excluding certain layers which were not required in this instance.

AWS has many benefits as a hosting solution; it is cost effective for clients only paying for the resources that are used without long term contracts, which is ideal for the New Scientist site which is hosting the ExCel event in 8 months. Technically creating an AWS instance provides a scalable solution with tools such as Auto Scaling, Elastic load balancing and a host of resources from AWS on hand.

How we managed the hosting solution

Upon completion of the build of the event site, live.newscientist.com we created a development environment which replicated the exact build of the website – this was built on the AWS platform as this was the solution which was going to be used moving forward.

Once the development environment was created, we were then able to set up different elements which would be required, this included the configuration of elastic block store (EBS), configuration of relational database services (RDS) and then optimisation to ensure the efficiency of the environment that is then built. We were now in a position to implement a series of tests within the development environment.

Based on data and analysis of the load testing further refinement to the structure of the hosting was implemented and additional testing was completed. The profile of the hosted solution was constantly refined, bottlenecks within the application were removed and using the auto scaling tool we were able to provide a solution to reduce the time required starting a new instance.Only once the testing proved the development environment could manage the high level of traffic we were expecting from the live site, could we provide a recipe of a pre tested hosting solution and a written procedure for the Ops team on how it should be deployed.