Website monitoring tool helps fire service save lives

NSW Rural Fire Service deploys app performance software to handle website load peaks during bushfire season

As 627 bushfires raged across NSW for two terrifying weeks in October last year, the NSW Rural Fire Service's website was accessed by 5.7 million people seeking real time information.

The website is used to warn the public of approaching fires and contains information about the size of fires and where they are located. NSW residents can also find out if it’s safe to remain in their homes or get out.

NSW Rural Fire Service IT manager Ashley Van Amstel told Computerworld Australia that on the worst day, 17 October 2013, 869,544 people visited the site.

For many people in rural communities, the website is now the first port of call as it provides live updates on fire locations which could save someone’s life, he said.

In late 2013, the NSW Rural Fire Service made a decision to deploy Compuware’s APM synthetic application performance monitoring tool to proactively monitor the website and ensure that it could withstand huge spikes in traffic.

“One of the reasons we went with the tool is that it can do last mile testing. That means we can test the website to see what performance is like when users are accessing it from different ISPs or locations in the world,” said Van Amstel.

“Compuware’s ability to do last mile testing provides a critical view for our organisation because the people most affected by bushfires are not those using high speed connections.”

As the 2014 bushfire season has already begun in NSW, the IT department is gearing up for a summer of website spikes from people using their smartphones, PCs or tablets.

Out of the 5.7 million visits to its website from October 12 to 26 last year, 3.1 million were on desktop PCs, 1.7 million on smartphones and about 850,000 on tablets, said Van Amstel.

In March 2014, NSW Rural Fire IT staff undertook a virtual storage implementation at its two data centres in Sydney to improve real-time data access when fire fighters are mobilising to tackle bushfires.

The organisation began implementing EMC’s VPLEX in October 2013. The solution has allowed it to move data workloads between the two data centres without losing information.

The VPLEX implementation was also undertaken to avoid outages between the organisation’s primary data centre in Homebush and a secondary facility in Sydney’s CBD.

“We can’t afford outages, especially during summer. A two minute outage may mean someone’s life,” Van Amstel said at the time.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Read more: NSW govt seeks input on ICT strategy

Tags bushfireWebsite PerformanceNew South Wales (NSW)Compuware CorporationNSW Rural Fire Servicebushfires

More about APMCompuwareNSW Rural Fire Service

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