David Hawcock is a leading paper engineer, and has been a client of tallhatDesign for over a decade. In January he was due to appear on BBC1’s primetime business pitch programme Dragons’ Den with a Pop-up Chess Set he’d invented. We knew we’d need to carefully consider the website hosting and plan for this event.

We did some research, and spoke to the hosting company for advice, and decided to move the site (hawcockbooks.co.uk) from a standard VPS hosting platform to a dedicated Enscale (Jelastic) server which can dynamically auto-scale to accommodate sudden extreme traffic spikes.

We migrated the site in early January, and then ran multiple stress tests on the server using Loader.io to simulate high load on the server. Between us and the host we tweaked and optimised the site, and hosting configuration to give the best chance of dealing with a huge and sudden load.

The site is ecommerce, so although site caching can help, it’s not possible to cache the entire thing to speed up the site load and take strain off the dynamic page loads (database calls).

Confident that the server would hold-up well under strain we looked forward to the programme airing. What we didn’t count on was the level of interest David’s product would attract. His pitch went incredibly well, with 4 out of 5 Dragons making offers to David. This lead to a stampede to buy the first run of the chess set from the website. The server did hold up – just! – at one point the server load indicator was running bright red and the server was dealing with many thousands of visitors per minute. Sales were flooding in.

The peak was around 30,000 visitors. Even 20 minutes after David’s appearance, the analytics were reporting 2,500 active users over 5 minutes. Increase in users at one point was 167,000% from our previous base level!

Many thanks to Layershift hosting for advice and assistance.

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