Guest Blogger: Peter Weyandt, Sr. Manager of Hosting and IT
Dreams are a wonderful thing. Especially when you can set goals and make plans that can bring those dreams to fruition.
As this summer winds down and our client K-12 districts and schools start ramping up for the new school year, I can only envision the amount of preparation that happens in order to successfully reach their dreams and goals. I imagine those goals start off with a successful "Back to School" program that engages parents, students, and teachers to get them excited for the new year.
About two years ago, I sat down with my technical management colleagues here at Schoolwires to do some dreaming of our own. I was new in my position managing our Hosting Operations team and was wondering how I could really have a positive impact and bring some innovation to an already highly functioning hosting operation. One area we identified for improvement was our uptime for start of school. My dream was to have 100% uptime for our clients' K-12 district websites and school websites during this hectic time of year. This is the time when K-12 districts and schools need reliable hosting for their websites in order to roll out the enormous amount of communications to parents, student, teachers, staff, and their community. And, it's no coincidence that as a result, our servers and network get a marathon-like workout at the start of the school year!
If you are a CTO or IT specialist, you know in the technology world that high utilization of systems can lead to downtime. And, server downtime - especially during the start of school - is a concern for districts. In order to ensure minimal to no downtime during the stressful, high-usage start of school period, we focus on our K-12 districts as our #1 goal.
I sketched out some dream ideas and turned to my Hosting Engineers, Cliff Moten and Michael Struble, to start identifying the critical goals we needed to make this happen, including:
- Re-designing systems that had given us problems in the past
- Recognizing ways to stabilize possible fail points
- Ensuring we can quickly and effectively communicate issues - both internally and externally
- Testing our new designs to ensure they meet the expected demand at the start of school
With our objectives lined up, we began to execute our plan. This may sound too technical for some of you, but IT types will love this...We replaced our existing world-class firewalls and load balancers with new state-of-the-art equipment that greatly increased our capacity. Then we replaced our existing Web clusters by creating them on new modular physical host pods. We also clustered virtual utility servers off of these physical host pods to isolate utility jobs away from our Web servers. Concurrently, we rewrote our communication processes and emergency procedures. Finally, we moved all our clients from the old environment to the new, while minimizing downtime. Here's the exciting news: when we conducted a computer simulation to load test our new creation at 140% of our expected start of school load, the results were successful!
A lot of hard work by my hosting team, combined with terrific guidance from my managers - and a little luck thrown in - resulted in a dream come true. 100% uptime for the start of the 2013 school year! As that school year came to a close, my team met again for our annual dreaming session, which of course included 100% uptime for this 2014 start of school season! Come back here on Thursday to read Part 2 and discover what we've been putting in place for our clients in 2014 to ensure we all have another successful start of school experience.
Updated 8/28/14: Check out Part 2 to this great story!
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