I have been asked to do some investigation regarding a method to serve an emergency information website should there be a critical, very high traffic situation. We estimate that traffic would quintuple from our current to about 30K visits a day for a few days. Would would point traffic from our current domain to something like emergency.domainname.com. The current thinking is that the traffic would be redirect from the current domain in IIS.

No one wants to use our current CMS for this, but rather WordPress or something else. The obvious, a static HTML page is out. I have a separate research track for optimizing WP, so my question is, is there a hosted, easy to use CMS that can handle huge traffic? Like Squarespace but for enterprise.

  • Wait - you want a website to host your emergency response documentation on the website that is going to be hit? I'm so confused. Emergency stuff should be easily available electronically and also in a binder onsite and a binder offsite. (in case the building is flooded/on fire/etc.) Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your goals. – mfinni Feb 24 '11 at 22:17
  • I guess he's referring to an emergency services-type website. Something that you'd visit for info in case of an earthquake, for example. – George Hewitt Feb 24 '11 at 22:22
  • @mfinni I think you missed the idea here. The emergency in question is not the state of the site so much as the relevant subject matter of the site. I believe the question is about hosting a site that will get super high traffic spikes after specific evets, say an earthquake. Hosting sites that get used in these senarios is much more difficult that having your little server tucked away somewhere. – Caleb Feb 24 '11 at 22:24
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    That's a valid guess; my first thought was that it was an IT emergency plan for what to do when their commercial website got high traffic. – mfinni Feb 24 '11 at 22:24
  • @mfinni, I guess the problem here really isn't clear. Maybe @mmcglynn could clarify, but either way the answers are likely to be roughly the same. – Caleb Feb 24 '11 at 22:33

I suggest you consider hosting on a platform that is designed to scale well. Examples would be cloud providers such as EC2, hosted computing platforms like google apps, and hosted app platforms like wordpress.com. You want something that is used to taking big hits, but that doesn't charge you big iron prices except for those rare times when you need it.

Also think about good CDN techniques like hosting on EC2 but having your app stash it's out put in S3 and make that service take most of the beating in case of a landrush. Cloudfront might also be useful here.

Hosting with a provider that does bulk hosting for a specific app (such as wordpress.com) is also one way to be ready for unexpected (or in your case expected but un-timeable) traffic bursts.

Using a CMS makes things like CDNs, edge caching, etc much harder, but it can still be done at least to lighten the load. Whatever CMS you use, make sure it has settings for setting cache values on various bits of content, has a way to put frequently accessed data in memcache or push it out to a CDN, etc.

This answer is less about the CMS and more about the platform, and general suggestions more than a specific answer, but I hope it helps you think about the problem. As a sysadmin who also works in EMS, I know combining these fields is no simple task.

  • Big +1 for using someone like WordPress.com for this. – ceejayoz May 20 '15 at 19:48

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