FALMOUTH – The Steamship Authority has identified actions to be taken to avoid future website traffic issues.
Customers encountered delays when Martha’s Vineyard summer reservations opened on January 21 due to high traffic, especially on the mobile website.
The company released several reports last week which detail the steps taken prior to the Vineyard opening to ensure the system’s reliability, the issues encountered on January 21st and steps taken to correct them.
An investigation by the Steamship Authority found two central issues that led to unreliability.
The unexpected volume of connection requests to servers from the mobile website caused a taxing of database servers which made it impossible for people to log in and make reservations.
After that issue was solved, servers still had issues handling the volume of reservation requests.
Only by reducing the allowed number of connections to the server, was the website able to function normally.
A switch to a more efficient connection type was made to the other web servers following the 2018 opening day reservation difficulties but was not made prior to January 21.
The Steamship Authority also said that the number of transactions processed for Vineyard reservations on opening day was over 14,800, which is more than the 14,200 processed last year.
“It’s a big deal,” said Sean Driscoll, the Steamship Authority’s communications director. “That’s a very big day for us and it was extremely embarrassing, frankly, for us to have this issue.”
Driscoll said there are several actions that will be taken before summer reservations open next year.
“We are going to totally redesign our procedures for load testing the website, including the current tools that we are using and what parts of the system that’s taxing to make sure we are examining the reservation systems use and the reservation process from start to finish, and see where there would be issues prior to our very busy summer opening days,” he said.
The load testing would be completed throughout the year and not just before the high traffic days.
The Steamship Authority will also start to use a virtual waiting room, similar to the process used when purchasing tickets to a sporting event or concert.
“That is just for better user experience and also to better manage the load on our website,” Driscoll said.
The Steamship Authority also plans on studying an upgrade and redesign for the website.
“We have a goal by the end of the year to issue a Request for Proposals for a new website and/or new mobile app for our customers,” Driscoll said.
The current website is seven years old.
“We’ve known it is time for a new one,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll said the Steamship Authority is a public agency that is committed to transparency.
“We are being as forthright as we can about what has happened and what we are going to do to fix it so that the public can understand what the issue was and how we are going to [correct it] so that they can have faith that they’ll be able to make their reservations,” he said.
The reports, along with a summary written by Davis, were distributed to the Port Council and Steamship Board.
The Authority also said that they will fully examine and execute where appropriate, the specific solutions regarding its IT department.
The reports are also available on the Authority’s website.