Election sends Web traffic off the charts

News24 served 8,5TB of traffic in two days and at the peak had more than 100 000 concurrent connections as users flocked to its special election website and smartphone apps. By Regardt van der Berg.

News24's interactive election maps drew live results data from the Electoral Commission of South Africa

News24’s interactive election maps drew live results data from the Electoral Commission of South Africa

If there was any doubt about South Africans’ interest in the results of last week’s election, the traffic numbers from News24 — more than 102 000 concurrent users and 8,5TB of data served in two days — should put that to rest.

According to the statistics from website analytics firm Effective Measure, News24, which is ultimately owned by JSE-listed media group Naspers, had about 625 000 unique users and 4m pageviews on 7 May 2014, election day. The next day, as results started coming in, this jumped to 1,7m unique users and 22m pageviews.

“On Friday morning, 9 May, we realised that just over half of 24.com’s bandwidth usage for the month had been delivered the day before,” says 24.com product development manager Cathryn Reece.

This year’s election was the first that the team behind News24’s election map was able to update the results data in real time. Other websites also took advantage of “application programming interfaces” that were developed by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).

Reece says 24.com always expect large traffic numbers — it’s become common on big news days — but it did not anticipate the level of demand for the election maps and the mobile apps.

24.com technology architect Pieter Gerber says the election apps were built on 24.com’s ASP.NET platform, which runs on a SQL Server database. The applications were hosted on eight Web servers, four application servers and four database servers.

“Everything was hosted on our existing infrastructure and, although our servers managed the data spikes, by around 9am on Thursday we had to add some additional hardware to handle the load.”

The additional capacity was needed to cope with the spike in concurrent connections, says Gerber.

Alistair Fairweather

Alistair Fairweather

“At about 10am on Thursday, we peaked at 102 000 concurrent connections, and by 2pm we started to come off the 100 000 mark, and by Friday we saw a peak of about 68 000 users.”

The Mail & Guardian Online, meanwhile, also experienced an unusually high level of website traffic the day after the election, according to chief technology officer Alistair Fairweather. Like News24, the website also ran a live election-day map, the development of which was led by Jason Norwood-Young at Code4SA.

“8 May was a huge traffic day for us in general: more than 140 000 users visited the site that day, more than double our normal count. The only events in the history of the site that compare to this are 14 February 2014 (Oscar Pistorius) and Madiba’s death and funeral,” Fairweather says.

“The election map alone accounted for nearly 10% of the total traffic we received on the day. Nearly 75 000 people visited the map within a 12-hour period, making it one of the most popular single pages of all time on our site.”  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

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