Steamship Authority Reports Findings on January’s Server Crash

Steamship Authority photo:

HYANNIS – The Steamship Authority has found that a large amount of mobile traffic on their web site was the reason for its crash last month, which led to a delay in processing Martha’s Vineyard summer reservations.

The company released several reports on Tuesday which detail the steps taken prior to the Vineyard opening to ensure the system’s reliability, the issues encountered on January 21st and steps taken to correct them.

“In reviewing both our internal report and the report from Imarc, it is clear that this regrettable incident is the result of missed opportunities from both parties,” said Steamship General Manager Bob Davis.

“In hindsight, it is easy to find ways in which the server environment problems could have been avoided ahead of time. But there are also several points at which reasonable actions should have been taken that would have, if not stopped this from happening, lessened the burdens our customers encountered that day.”

According to the reports, two main issues negatively affected the website on January 21st.

The Authority experienced an unexpected volume of connection requests to the servers of their mobile website.

The mobile website servers were using an inefficient connection type that taxed the Authority’s web database and made it impossible for users to log in and make reservations.

Even with a switch to a more efficient connection type, the web database servers were still unable to handle the volume of connection requests.

Only by reducing the allowed number of connections to the server, was the website able to function normally.

A switch to a more efficient connection type was made to the other web servers following the 2018 opening day reservation difficulties but was not made prior to January 21.

The Steamship Authority also said that the number of transactions processed for Vineyard reservations on opening day was over 14,800, which is more than the 14,200 processed last year.

“That fact is of no comfort to our customers whose day was disrupted by the website’s inability to properly function,” said Davis.

While the short-term problems with the website were addressed on the day of the issues, the Steamship Authority said that several mid to long-range recommendations will be implemented to further increase the robustness of the Authority’s web services.

They include unified log and resource monitoring, a review of load testing procedures and a study of website upgrade/redesign by the end of 2020.

The reports, along with a summary written by Davis, were distributed to the Port Council and Steamship Board.

The Authority also said that they will fully examine and execute where appropriate, the specific solutions regarding its IT department.

“Just as we share responsibility for the website infrastructure crash, Imarc and the Authority share the challenges of moving forward to make significant and lasting changes on our information technology infrastructure,” Davis said.

“I look forward to our continued commitment to providing the best service possible for our customers.”

The reports are also available on the Authority’s website.

About Justin Saunders

Justin Saunders has nearly 10 years of experience in radio, television, online and newspaper journalism across the US and Canada. Justin joined the NewsCenter in May 2014 and continues to help provide coverage of the Cape and Islands.
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