Web hosting keeps GTAA site flying

In a typical month, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority’s Web site can have anywhere between a 110,000 and 130,000 unique visitors. But when a snowstorm hits or an accident such as the Air France crash of Aug. 3 causes flights to be delayed, the number of hits on the GTAA’s site skyrockets.“It all depends on the incident. During a snow storm, we could have 70,000 to 80,000 people come, depending on how many flights are cancelled,” says Penny Izlakar, manager of corporate information services for the GTAA.
The ability to accommodate the peak periods was one of the factors that drove the GTAA to decide on using the services of a Web site hosting company six years ago, Izlakar says.
After a cost-service analysis, the GTAA decided Web hosting was the right way to go, Izlakar says, however, she adds, “Outsourcing may not be right for all companies at all times.” Though the company could have supported the Web site in-house, technically, it turned to MCI Canada because it had top-of-the-line hardware and staff.
The GTAA’s Web site has two parts — one is the organization’s corporate Web site, and the other is Toronto’s Pearson International Airport’s site.
Though the GTAA recommends that people check an airline’s site for the latest updates, it does provide flight data and many people choose to visit its site.
Bad weather
The GTAA maintains a single point of contact with MCI to simplify relations. When it knows that bad weather is on the way, it immediately places a call to MCI.
“They’ll make sure that the Web site is running and that the health of the server is good,” Izlakar says.
The Web site has a transfer rate of 300GB per month.
The GTAA periodically reviews the contract it has with MCI.
“Every time we have to renew the contract, we do an evaluation internally that we’re happy with the size of the server and the data transfer that we’re using,” Izlakar says.
According to a research paper published by Forrester Research Inc.’s William Martorelli, there are signs of stability in the hosting market and that has changed the way users choose suppliers.
“With increasing signs of stability evident in the hosting market, the once panicked flight from failing hosting suppliers to more stable providers has slowed significantly,” he writes. “However, that does not mean that hosting supplier evaluations are a thing of the past. Customers must still take care, however, to select a supplier that exhibits commitment to the hosting market. Financial viability, high quality of service, and strong SLA provisions are all essential.”
The landscape is changing, according to Martorelli.
“High prices and mixed services are leading customers away from the safe but costly suppliers,” he writes in his report, “Choosing A Hosting Services Supplier.”
The industry is seeing the emergence of new leaders, such as Savvis and the resurgence of once-troubled suppliers, such as MCI/Digex, Data Return and NaviSite, he writes.
Financial savings are one of the major reasons companies consider Web hosting providers, says MCI’s Al Davis, a Toronto-based product manager of hosting services.
“Bandwidth is expensive, and we have bandwidth by the bushel.”
Outsourcing can also help companies reduce the number of staff they need in-house, he says. Admins don’t have to worry about patching operating systems and replacing hard drives to ensure the smooth running of We sites.
“Uptime and power are always a major concern, especially after the blackout,” he says, adding MCI’s centre remained unaffected by power outages.
The only time the GTAA ever had a concern about its Web site was during a snow storm in 2003 when it got close to its peak load, Izlakar says.
The problem was caused by a search that was taking up too much bandwidth. The organization asked MCI to continue to restart its servers and then made some changes to its Web site by removing the search from its front page.

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