OCAS: It takes two to deal with double cohort

In an attempt to ease the stress of increased traffic to its Web site, Ontario College Application Services (OCAS) has engaged the services of IBM.

In this “”double cohort”” year, OCAS is relying on IBM Global Services to provide burstable Internet bandwidth, backup and restore services, IBM SurfAid Analyticsand Akamai edge computing. OCAS provides administrative systems and application processing services for Ontario’s colleges.

The double cohort is the influx of Ontario students graduating from both grade 12 and from the OAC (Ontario Academic Credit) program, which will be discontinued at the end of this academic year, into the college and university systems. This year alone, the double cohort will account for the number of students applying to college online to nearly triple.

Bill McKee, director of information services at OCAS in Guelph, Ont., said that the organization decided to enlist IBM in order to continue providing quality service during a challenging time.

While the OAC program is officially ended this year, McKee doesn’t see an end to the double cohort complications for a long time to come.

“”We saw an early part of the double cohort impact last year, and in the college system alone we see that it will actually go on for about eight more years,”” he said.

This is due to the fact that a large majority of students applying to Ontario colleges are not high school students, but rather more mature students who already have a degree, he said.

“”The impact has actually just begun — it’s much more than a one-year event for us,”” McKee said.

According to McKee, the maintenance of the site before IBM’s involvement was a real challenge during peak times. Even without the double cohort, the OCAS Web site sees three times its normal number of hits during the last week in January every year.

“”We struggled to keep things working while dealing with volumes that weren’t always predictable, and we needed to find some more flexible process that could be scaled,”” McKee said. “”We needed to have a very quick response time and higher level of service.””

France Dube, general manager of e-business hosting at IBM Canada Ltd. in Toronto, explained that OCAS is able to adjust its level of service from IBM based on the amount of traffic that they’re seeing.

“”Their business is quite seasonal, so when they’re in peak they pay a little more to get the services they need and in quieter moments they pay less. They don’t have to maintain a huge infrastructure,”” she said.

Other than the managing the site’s infrastructure, IBM Global Services is providing OCAS with software that measures the site for effecti

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