Touch wood, we have sorted out the problem that caused the new site to crash just a couple of days after it went live, but there will inevitably continue to be occasional “outages” — and Murphy’s Law specifies that they will mostly happen late Friday/early Saturday, when we cannot do much to fix them until Monday morning.
Another new feature, which unfortunately we did not have fully in place last weekend, is that even when our web server is not working we can provide an informative web page, including access to this blog, rather than users just getting a “404 not found” error message. This should provide reassurance that we have not closed down for good. The “sorry” page for unplanned stoppages is this:
We are able to provide this because access to the new site is via a “load balancer”, or Application Control Engine, operated by University of Portsmouth Information Services. This constantly monitors the site and can divert users to the “sorrry” server when necessary. It would also enable us to run multiple copies of the site on different servers to cope with heavy demand, and in fact we did do this for the Old Maps Online launch. Old Maps Online is a much smaller and simpler site than Vision of Britain, which we currently cannot afford to completely duplicate. However, we think the new sorry page is still a useful addition.