Meeting unprecedented demand
Online learning has driven increased usage of digital K-12 platforms like Edsby overnight. Here’s what we’re doing to meet the challenge.
This new normal of online learning is resulting in some incredible statistics from the past few weeks of Edsby usage.
At one customer alone, Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, FL, Edsby is now fielding weekly logins from 225,000 unique users, almost a quarter of a million people. Users are far more active than usual. Teachers are writing and students are reading more than ever before. Edsby is now regularly serving out over 2 gigabits of data per second during the school day to Hillsborough students, teachers and parents.
To put this in perspective, pre-COVID, Hillsborough’s Edsby system used to see around 15 million hits per day, with a peak of about 650 hits per second. With the move to all-online learning, this new normal is over 100 million hits per day, regularly exceeding 3,000 hits per second.
Meeting high load
Edsby is fortunate to be hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud system. It’s quick and easy to scale up resources as needed. We never thought we’d need to do as much scaling as we have these past two weeks, but teachers, students and parents are using Edsby more heavily than ever, and in different ways than before.
We’ve been monitoring Edsby closely and scaling as required. For example:
- We’ve tripled the size of our database engines
- We’ve quadrupled the resources powering our web engines and other backend servers
- We’ve quintupled the resources powering searches in Edsby
Yet scaling a system of the complexity and importance of Edsby and ensuring it stays available 24/7 for all customers everywhere isn’t just a simple matter of pressing a few buttons. There are a lot of moving parts in the “supply chain of the Internet” that a complex system like Edsby relies on, and those parts sometimes break. For instance:
- Challenges in error handling under high loads in the underlying cloud database that Edsby uses impacted customers in one region for several hours March 23rd until we were able to work with the provider to get a mitigation in place
- The provider of the service we use to mitigate network attacks had an outage in one of its datacenters that temporarily made Edsby appear inaccessible; it also sometimes interpreted the high new levels of Edsby usage as a coordinated attack by hackers and occasionally locked users out of their Edsby systems
- An outside service that previews popular document files inside of Edsby has had occasional failures when users tried to view or download documents; its “server not available” messages made Edsby seem unavailable
- Some customers in one region were impacted the evening of April 7th by a failure in a disk subsystem used for system logging run by our service provider, a point of failure nobody anticipated and has been mitigated as a future risk
And, of course, with everyone at all of these companies above that Edsby relies on working from home, fixing something that may have taken minutes for these companies to fix a few weeks ago can take longer now.
Ensuring the high availability of the Edsby service is fully our responsibility. Through all this we’ve worked hard to maintain our goal of having sub-second response time for users. We weren’t always able to achieve that these last two weeks as load grew. With measures now in place we appear to be able to largely achieve our response time goals even at periods of peak load. Of course, some things will still break and need fixing, and we’ll continue to.
Finally, note that with high profile systems we’ve all come to rely on like Snapchat, Netflix and Zoom also experiencing outages these last few weeks—not to mention other edtech applications—it’s clear everyone is grappling with this totally unprecedented work-at-home traffic. All the plumbing of the Internet is being stretched, but it will adapt to the new reality.
How to optimize Edsby for distance learning
If you haven’t already, educators should review these tips we’ve prepared on how to make the most out of Edsby in these unusual times. The following is a short list of ideas, with screenshots, to help promote student wellbeing with Edsby while students are at home: Suggestions for teachers using Edsby for online learning.
Online learning enhancements coming
We’ve been getting suggestions from customers about how Edsby could help even more in this new paradigm of “Learn at Home.” For example, teachers want to be able to more easily tell which students have been active recently in Edsby. Or who have one or more active parents in Edsby. We’ve already completed some changes to support that which are scheduled for release soon. We’re revamping our roadmap to add in a number of additional new features in response to the challenges of distance learning. Stay tuned for updates.
The Edsby team
Our team is fully engaged with all members working from home. We have no cases of COVID-19 internally, and with the strict physical distancing we’ve implemented we expect it to stay that way.