The Santa TrackerYesterday I received an email from a client named Mike. He’s a nurse. He is not a web developer, nor is he a software tester. He runs a very successful Christmas website TheSantaTracker.

Anyway, he wrote a few paragraphs on his perspective (inexperienced, non-technical) on load testing. I thought I would post it here to share with everyone – especially because he has nice things to say about us! 😉

Some of this will sound like a commercial, and I apologize in advance for that. However, I hope those readers who are not regular coders or quality assurance folks will find these “rookie load tester” thoughts helpful. It goes to show that not everything has to be overly complicated.

Sometimes simple solutions are the best solutions.

load testing a Christmas site hosted on HivelocityMike took a good bit of energy to write this, and I’m going to share it. Also, I want to support him in any way I can because he brings happiness to children that are in tough times. Have you ever had a kid in ICU? I have – and it is very hard to deal with. The nurses make all the difference in the world. They are heroes, and they make a difference every single day on the job.

I salute Mike Walczak for everything he does – both in the ICU and with his Christmas website that helps people.

From Mike:

“As a pediatric ICU nurse, expecting the unexpected is something that I experience every shift. In order to deal with the high level of uncertainty that occurs in the workplace, I find it especially important to be prepared. Preparation may sound simple, but it often involves taking many factors into consideration. As time consuming as preparation may be, it ultimately grants a person the peace of mind he or she needs to know that they are ready to handle anything.

“When I started my Christmas website over 4 years ago, I did it with the intention of bringing happiness to some of the kids in my family. However, since my initial launch, the website has skyrocketed beyond the scope of a simple family tradition. Last year, the site served over 2 million pages on Christmas Eve alone. With the increasing traffic also comes the interesting predicament of finding the right type of Hivelocity Hosting server hardware to support the annually growing audience. This year, I stumbled upon the great services at and quickly realized that this may be the perfect solution to test my new server setup.

“Now let me first point out, I am certainly no webserver junkie nor do I have any experience in load testing webservers. Despite my lack of experience, I was able to quickly understand the necessary steps to setup a test load. I first took a look at how much the site has grown over the past few years in order to gauge an idea of how many users I should realistically test for. Also, recalling that preparation is key, I factored in reasonable “worst case scenario” type numbers. When I finished running the numbers, I came up with the right number of concurrent users to test the server with. (By the way, I also found a 2010 LoadStorm blog post that helped break down how to come up with the right amount of concurrent users for your own websites.)

“For the second step, I looked into access logs which revealed some of the heaviest
used pages on the website. Given that users were using certain pages more than others, I wanted to ensure that my load test took these pages into consideration. LoadStorm is fantastic in that it actually allows you to setup a custom scenario where you can specify which pages are viewed and in what order (of course including a field wildcard steps along the way). The scenario process is extremely quick and it even shows you a preview of the content that the load servers will see during the test (it is helpful to know what exactly will be displayed).

“Finally, I setup a duration period for my test. I decided to run my test over an hour so that both my hosting provider and myself could monitor how the server setup was handling the load. Loadstorm even has real time performance metrics that help you to understand how the server is responding from a user perspective. This ultimately was a wonderful feature since we did in fact decide to tweak several settings early on that definitely had a great impact down later in the test. Not to mention, it was great to be able to find and tweak these settings now instead of when the website is actually receiving a lot of real traffic.

“At the end of the day, the entire process was painless and efficient. The server handled the excessive traffic without any major issues and I now have the piece of mind that the server is ready for the annual Christmas audience (plus extra). It is also worth mentioning that although I had thousands of concurrent users being sent to my server from only a handful of IPs, the system never caused me or my DDOS system any issues. I’d like to thank Scott and the entire LoadStorm team for creating such a fantastic product; it really is extremely easy to use. I would also like to thank the team at Hivelocity Hosting for providing me with such incredible hardware this year. Without a doubt, your products are world class!”