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    How Some of the Worst Capacity Planning Mistakes Could Have Been Prevented

    October 2, 2015
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    By Dino Balafas

    Some of the biggest capacity planning mistakes in history  such as the launch of Healthcare.gov and the release of Lady Gaga’s album on Amazon  could’ve been easily prevented with the proper precautions.

    We’ve all heard about at least a few disasters in the history of capacity planning. The rollout of Healthcare.gov in 2013 was infamously catastrophic, with the site taking over six months to become even remotely operational at the requisite scale.

    Meanwhile, Amazon underestimated the consumer response for the MP3 release of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album in 2011, which caused the site to crash and made the songstress the target of angry teenagers’ dismay on social media around the world.

    While the sheer popularity of these platforms might make crashes and prolonged downtime seem inevitable, the truth is that tech tragedies like these can be easily prevented by utilizing the proper tools and taking the right precautionary steps. Let’s explore some of the measures that these organizations could’ve employed to prevent these costly mistakes.

    Seek Out the Right Tools

    Problems with capacity planning stem from a wide variety of locations: it could be that you failed to take a good look at throughput and response time, or maybe you didn’t anticipate a volume surge in the wake of a specific campaign. But the one thing these oversights all have in common is that they can be fatal for web-based services like online retailers or fantasy sports leagues, which rely on speed and reliability to remain viable in highly saturated marketplaces.

    The good news is that there are tools available to ensure your systems remain optimized and ready for anything that comes your way. Mathematical modeling and predictive analytics can help make sure your infrastructure has the capacity your business requires to meet all online demand.

    Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

    But being ready isn’t just about math equations and predictive analytics. Every so often, capacity planners need to tear themselves away from the data and get their hands dirty, working with customers in the real world to get a better understanding of their wants and needs.

    Consumer behavior is a living, breathing, and often unpredictable entity. You may have some inkling or idea of how your specific market is going to behave, but unless you get out there, engage with businesses and consumers, and turn over a lot of rocks, you’ll likely be unprepared when it comes time to capitalize on the next major trend or retail blitz.

    Minor Mistakes Become Major Problems

    When a company’s IT department is stretched too thin, mistakes are inevitable. In the rush to upgrade and overhaul existing systems, small oversights can occur that can later come back to haunt companies in a big way.

    For example, a company may be reconfiguring a service in anticipation of higher traffic and, since they’re already making changes, decide to make some “minor tweaks” to the application. The potential outcome?

    Things that used to happen over a series of pages become consolidated on the very first page. This places a heavy upfront load on the existing infrastructure, which means it’s going to really spike the utilization rate when a whole bunch of people try to launch the application for the first time.

    By anticipating these types of problems and having the right conversations with your customers and company executives, you’ll avoid the small mistakes that can quickly snowball and cause the major, headline-producing problems. Make sure your IT infrastructure is mature and totally prepared, so you can snuff these problems out before they have a chance to do any real damage to your company.

    (Main image credit: Michael Loke/flickr)


    Category: capacity-planning