Butler U. Web Site Is Reinforced to Handle NCAA Traffic

Butler University’s men’s basketball team conquered more than Kansas State University on March 27 in the Sweet Sixteen game that sent it to the Final Four—it crashed Butler’s Web site, too.

The Web site was well equipped to handle the 5,000 to 15,000 visits that it gets on a typical day, but the 137,000 visits the day of the Kansas State game were simply too much. The next day, the information-resources department came up with a plan to handle the spike in traffic brought on by Butler’s new celebrity from this year’s NCAA tournament.

“Early on, we took the Web pages that were most frequently accessed and replicated those pages across multiple servers, since the one server couldn’t handle the load,” said Scott Kincaid, Butler’s chief information officer.

That, however, was just a temporary fix. Soon afterward, Butler increased its server processing power fivefold and added a duplicate database server, which holds content. It also added a Web-page-caching device, so that copies of pages could be provided without the system having to go back and access the server every time a visitor came. Finally, Butler expanded its Internet pipe from 500 megabits per second to one gigabits per second.

Mr. Kincaid compared increasing the Web site’s capacity for visitors to fitting all Grandma’s stuff in a little car to drive her to Florida. He said when the car is full, you can attach a U-Haul, but “once the U-Haul trailer is full, you can’t just add another U-Haul or a trailer; you’ve got to get a truck.”

“What we did is we got a Ryder truck and we got multiple ones,” and that’s how they got Grandma to Florida, he said. 

While the men’s basketball page has been popular, the “About” page on Butler’s Web site has been visited the most.

“People were really coming to try to find out who we were, what we’re about,” said Sheila Shidnia, director of Web marketing at Butler. 

Since Monday, when Duke defeated Butler 61 to 59 in the final game and Butler’s Web site got more than 131,000 visits, traffic has begun to subside. Ms. Shindia said that the basketball feature on the home page won’t stay up much longer.

“I really want people to live in that moment, just for another day,” she said. “Then we’ll slowly start bringing that back to our daily communication.”

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