The 3 Biggest Disasters in Capacity Planning History

    August 17, 2015

    By Dino Balafas

    Effective and accurate capacity planning is essential for any web-based service’s smooth and continuous operation. The alternative is absolute failure.

    For a company’s web-based services, the ability to scale and operate efficiently is largely dependent on forward-looking capacity planning. Questions like, “What kind of workload do we expect to handle?” or, “How do we keep our services optimized as our site traffic volume increases?” are crucial for planning ahead and staying in front of the pack in a highly competitive digital marketplace.

    Those that take a proactive approach, ensuring that their systems are optimized in advance, will be able to capitalize on unexpected high-volume activity, instead of getting paralyzed by it. So, in the interest of learning from past mistakes, here are three of the biggest disasters in capacity planning history.


    The political implications of the Affordable Healthcare Act notwithstanding, the rollout of was an indisputable disaster, as Inc. lays out in detail. The site was plagued with problems from the start — the most notable of which was the platform’s inability to cope with the high volume of traffic it experienced upon going live. The site was virtually unusable for days (and not fully functional for six months), while millions of Americans waited in frustration.

    Because the failure fell upon the shoulders of elected officials, the American people had no choice but to sit back and wait for the site to become operational. This didn’t make the problem any more acceptable, however. Consider it this way: in the private sector, if a company’s website crashed on the first day of its operation — and then took six months to become fully usable again — would the business have any customers left?

    2. Lady Gaga and Amazon

    When Lady Gaga released her hit album, “Born This Way,” back in 2011, Amazon decided to surprise her fans (and simultaneously promote its new Cloud Drive service) by offering an MP3 version of her full album for $0.99 during its first 24 hours on sale, according to the New York Times.

    But Amazon’s developers didn’t anticipate how popular the campaign would actually become, a fact that became apparent as their servers stalled midway through the day. Amazon had to go completely offline in order to add capacity, and then extend the campaign several days to smooth things over with her fans.

    The immediate financial consequences of a failure this large are obvious, but the larger problems it causes boil down to customer experience. Amazon is often a first choice for consumers because of its sheer scale and accessibility, but if the site suffers some kind of glitch or problem, there’s no reason for customers to wait patiently while it’s resolved — they’ll simply move on and make their purchase with the next-best option. For Amazon, a delay in service compromises its entire business model.

    3. Fantasy Football

    While not a specific disaster, fantasy football sites are an example worth mentioning within the context of this conversation. A fantasy football enthusiast’s success is largely based on his or her ability to react quickly, and as the market has become increasingly saturated with sites catering to the hobby, the tolerance for technical inefficiency has fallen to zero.

    If your site is sluggish as a result of capacity management issues, you can bet that your competition (and your users) are going to reach out via advertising and social media to point that out and quickly find a faster and more efficient alternative. This is to say: if you have a slow service, you have no service at all. 

    Don’t Make the Same Mistakes

    In an increasingly tech-savvy world, operational hiccups no longer slip by unnoticed, leaving little or no margin for error. Companies need to optimize their IT with the best tools available, such as the industry-leading solutions from the experts at TeamQuest. Our TeamQuest Predictor improves upon traditional capacity planning, and takes it one step further by delivering advanced, predictive analytics to account for every variable that may come your way.

    Readying yourself for the unknown is a requisite for any digital services provider, and TeamQuest will help get you there. If you don’t do your job correctly when it comes to capacity planning, someone else (read: your competition) is going to do it for you.

    (Main image credit: yukichan234/deviantart)

    Category: capacity-planning