Melbourne IT's battle to keep Qld sites up

As floods hit Brisbane, around 25 Melbourne IT workers braved the road conditions to keep an eye on sites that would need more capacity, as Queenslanders were using them extensively during the crisis.

As floods hit Brisbane, around 25 Melbourne IT workers braved the road conditions to keep an eye on sites that would need more capacity, as Queenslanders were using them extensively during the crisis.

According to Melbourne IT CTO Glenn Gore, the company had taken a look at its customers when the crisis began.

"Whenever these disasters happen we go through our customer base and look for sites that would be adversely affected," he said.

It found four: the Queensland flood appeal, Department of Main Roads, Volunteering Queensland and TransLink (the public transport site for south east Queensland) websites.

The flood appeal site, which had been set up in late December after initial flooding, was originally only clocking 10,000 to 15,000 unique browsers per day. However, this ramped up to 40,000 on 9 January, and to 185,000 after a telethon asking for donations. Call centre staff entered the donation pledges into the site on behalf of the callers.

Once international interest was piqued with the flooding of Brisbane itself on 12 January, the number of unique browsers rose to 355,000 for 24 hours.

Since the start of January, the site had seen 774,000 unique browsers, Gore said.

Department of Main Roads had seen a similar ramp up for its 131940 site, which details traffic information such as road closures.

Impressions (not unique browsers) rose from around 14,000 per 24 hours to peak at 6.5 million for a day as the floods hit Brisbane.

Volunteering Queensland had been sitting around 10,000 impressions, but then rose to a peak of 95,000 impressions for 24 hours. Meanwhile, TransLink had seen a 20 to 30 per cent increase in load over a week.

Melbourne IT enabled the sites to keep on operating by adding extra capacity to usher in to cater for sites' expectations, although some sites, for example, the Queensland Flood appeal site, couldn't know exactly how far the traffic would rise.

Of the 200 Brisbane-based Melbourne IT staff, around 25 were on-site at the offices, adding capacity and monitoring, despite roads making travel around the city difficult. Around half of the Brisbane office had been affected by road closures during the crisis, Gore said, while around 12 employees had properties affected by the floods.

Yet keeping the Main Roads site up and running had required more than just adding capacity, according to Gore. After earlier floods last year, Melbourne IT had worked with the department to split the site into two sections. One had all the animated features such as traffic webcams, while developers spent time "removing all the bells and whistles" from a basic site for high load periods.

Otherwise, according to Gore, if you ramped up capacity, it would disappear quickly to the animated load. The pared down site shows only incidents and closures and limits, enabling it to provide necessary information in times of crisis.