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Calm at the eye of the storm.

As the marketing body for UK commercial TV, Thinkbox knows a thing or two about using advertising to make an impact. And they expected big results from a national campaign that included Shazam-enabled commercials placed in prime-time TV shows such as Coronation Street and The X Factor, as well as the deployment of ITV’s dual-screen X Factor app. 

But big results can put a big strain on even the best IT systems - not to mention the teams responsible for managing them. So to ensure their infrastructure could cope with the intense bursts of server-hungry activity expected as a result of the campaign, Thinkbox called upon Box UK’s Systems Engineering team

Our work to strengthen their systems gave Thinkbox the confidence they needed. The site maintained the necessary high levels of responsiveness even during peaks of up to seventy-fold increase in traffic levels - allowing their team to remain calm while a storm raged around them. 

Are you 100% confident your systems could handle these kinds of peaks in traffic? If there’s any doubt in your mind, we should be talking.

Fielding 25,000 requests a minute

While the Thinkbox website had previously proved resilient in coping with large increases in visitor traffic prompted by TV activity, this campaign introduced a new challenge, in the form… of forms. The adverts were driving people to fill in forms in order to download content and enter competitions, and short bursts of intense server-hungry activity were predicted as a result. Modelling suggested that field requests during these periods could be as high as 25,000 in a single minute. It was clear that a solution was needed to manage this process successfully, while continuing to deliver a seamless positive experience for site users. 

Brilliance behind the scenes

Our Systems Engineering team began by implementing the CloudFlare Content Delivery Network (CDN), and configuring the system to cache the site at regular intervals. This meant that requests for pages could be served via the CDN, rather than putting extra pressure on Thinkbox’s website and servers - resulting in faster load times and improved performance without affecting the delivery of content to users. 

Thinkbox home page screenshot

This solution proved so invaluable during the campaign - serving 100% of all home page hits and 70% of total site hits - that Thinkbox made the decision to keep it in place on a more permanent basis. In the event of any unexpected issues arising they can now be confident that content will still be delivered wherever and whenever it’s needed. 

Cloud technologies also proved the ideal choice when it came to managing the activity being encouraged by Thinkbox’s commercials. Amazon’s Simple Queue Service was employed to enable data to be held in a cloud-based queue until it could be processed by the server, while the Simple Email Service was used to automatically send responses to newsletter subscribers. This again greatly reduced the load being placed on the servers - but in such a way that the user remained blissfully unaware of any work going on behind the scenes. 

Results

During the transmission of both the televised adverts and in-app content, the Thinkbox site more than met performance requirements:

  • Managing thousands of requests without issue
  • Handling an increase of up to 7,000% over typical traffic levels
  • Serving 100% of home page hits and 70% total site hits

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