Written By Robert Camp

Aftermath of a viral hit

November 29, 2011 | draw a stickman / technology


Media companies are all after a viral hit.  Viral marketing can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.  While you can attract a ton of eyeballs to your brand, you also could end up crashing your servers.  The people who consume viral media often are not going to check back later, and will have a sour view of whatever is being promoted if you can’t keep the servers online.  

Hitcents experienced this directly when a project achieved viral success. launched on the 21st of September.  We were hosting it on our own web servers.  We run our office internet and all of our webservers off the same 25Mb/s connection that we get from BGMU (Bowling Green Municipal Utilities).  Well, early in the morning, around 3-5am we started receiving text messages that our servers where going offline.  We tried to log in and look and the ability to remotely connect was severely hampered.  We were not sure if the problem was with the service or something else was going on.  When we looked at our internet usage, we found that it was completely saturated with traffic from the project.  We first asked if BGMU could add some bandwidth to help weather the storm, but they could only add about 10Mb/s more for a total of 35Mb/s.  This wasn’t going to be nearly enough.  We needed outside help.

We called upon a service called ‘Cachefly’ that specializes in pushing large volumes of content out for a low price.  There are limitations to what it can do, but works well with static content.  Within fifteen minutes we had our account set up and I gave the project lead the info to upload all of the scripting files to Cachefly so that all that was hosted on our server was the very small html file that frames the stickman page.  Once that loads, it gets the rest from Cachefly.  When that transition was complete, the bandwidth spiked to around 125Mb/s that first day.  Then the next couple days, it got up to 250Mb/s.  There’s probably not an internet connection in Bowling Green Kentucky that can handle that amount of data.

There are other ways we could have handled this, but it’s important if you’re shooting for a viral marketing campaign, to ensure that you can handle the capacity if the campaign DOES take hold.  If what you’re doing is just a Youtube video, the primary content is easy.  Google takes care of that.  But if you’re linking to your website from that content and you see a sudden massive influx of traffic as a result, make sure your servers and internet connection can handle it.  Otherwise you could have a lot of lost impressions.


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