RedBalloon bolsters its back-end

After its website buckled under the strain of Christmas traffic several years ago, online gift company RedBalloon has bolstered its back-end and plans to launch a new mobile site in time for the festivities.

After its website buckled under the strain of Christmas traffic several years ago, online gift company RedBalloon has bolstered its back-end and plans to launch a new mobile site in time for the festivities.

In an interview with ZDNet Australia, RedBalloon founder and chief experience officer, Naomi Simson, revealed how the surge of Christmas traffic in 2008 crippled the site.

"It was an absolute bloody nightmare," said Simson.

She said that in 2008, RedBalloon was straining under traffic numbering approximately 5000 concurrent users, while processing roughly three transactions per second.

"Now we've built our own Battlestar Galactica to make sure that never happens again," Simson joked.

Over the last two years, RedBalloon has moved into an Optus datacentre, virtualised its server infrastructure and implemented load tests and traffic monitoring across.

"We now load test and load balance [the website] and simulate [approximately] 100,000 concurrent users at one time. We load test the website with 10 times the traffic we think we are going to get just to be sure that never happens again," Simson said.

She also told ZDNet Australia that RedBalloon is currently developing a mobile version of the popular site, with the help of an unnamed external designer.

"Every year we've looked at one major innovation, and [mobile] is this year's," said Simson.

Kristie Buchanan, RedBalloon's head of marketing, said that the company's decision to build a mobile version of the site first as opposed to deploying a traditional mobile application was driven by profitability.

"Our current site was not developed with a mobile [device] in mind. We explored a gift-finder, 'shakey-shakey' [style] application, and while that may have been a gateway to the site, it won't be just an app on its own. We are already getting transactions coming through mobiles and we didn't want to remove that cash flow," Buchanan said.

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