Following a disastrous opening day for summer boat reservations when customers assailed the Steamship Authority for issues with its online system that general manager Bob Davis described as "unacceptable," the boat line has provided an initial assessment of what went wrong.
Just prior to the launch of the summer reservation period, the Steamship Authority claims it ran two "load tests" on its web site in November of 2022 and "received normal results." Even with the high demand expected for the opening day of summer boat reservations, the Steamship Authority felt as if its web site was prepared for the expected onslaught.
But almost immediately early last Tuesday morning, Steamship Authority customers began reparting problems getting stuck or dropped from the "virtual waiting room," and difficulty completing the reservation process.
"An analysis of Tuesday’s events uncovered two issues," the Steamship announced in a statement. "First, the Authority’s cloud-based servers hosting its website databases were not properly set up to handle both the volume and duration of web traffic associated with the opening. When those cloud-based server configurations were changed Tuesday, the second issue occurred when several of the Authority’s internal web servers could not then maintain a connection to the cloud servers. That not only caused some customers to lose their place in the virtual waiting room queue but, once they made it to the site, they were unable to sustain a stable connection. After the Authority took those servers offline, the remaining servers successfully handled the remaining web traffic for the day."
Since last Tuesday, the Steamship Authority's IT personnel have been working with its outside vendors to address the server issues and conduct further load tests. According to the boat line, those tests demonstrated that the servers were able to handle "four times the web traffic normally seen on a reservation opening day without incident."
The pressure is on to fix the problems, as the opening day for summer boat reservations for the Steamship's Martha's Vineyard route open at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24th. That will bring even more traffic to the Steamship's web site than the opening day for the Nantucket route. But the Steamship has made several additional tweaks that it hopes will solve any problems.
"The waiting room has been adjusted to allow for a longer time period of inactivity – five minutes, up from three minutes – on the site before a user is returned to the waiting room," the Steamship announced.
The Steamship is in the midst of building a new web site, but that likely won’t be launched until later this year or next year.
On the Nantucket opening day last Tuesday, the Steamship Authority processed approximately 9,153 transactions totaling $4,748,000 in revenue. On the comparable day in 2022, the Authority processed a record 9,499 transactions representing nearly $4.7 million in revenue. In 2021, it processed 5,530 transactions representing $2.7 million in revenue.