Government organizations and healthcare providers responded urgently to serve their communities when the COVID-19 crisis struck the world. These teams had to manage an influx of sudden requests and traffic spikes as people scrambled for up-to-date information and resources on the pandemic. Now in 2021, there’s a new hope on the horizon as COVID-19 vaccine accessibility is being rolled out to the general public!
However, while this is great news, the vaccine distribution and registration process is putting even more pressure on digital acceleration in the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations need to scale their digital presence and swiftly serve the needs of thousands or millions of people. Recent federal initiatives to rapidly expand vaccine registrations have caused site visitors to skyrocket, causing some online vaccine registration portals to temporarily delay or interrupt service.
With such high stakes, healthcare providers and site owners can’t be burdened by hosting or performance issues. It’s important to make sure that your site is prepared to handle high traffic so that you can get information to your community about vaccinations or testing as quickly and accurately as possible. This checklist can help healthcare providers and digital government departments prepare for increased traffic, so that you can continue to serve your community without unexpected issues.
COVID-19 Site Launch Checklist
Before you set out to launch your new COVID-19 vaccination registration website or portal, here are a few best practices we recommend to launch a successful site at scale.
1. Touch base with your account team and Acquia Support with as much information as possible about upcoming traffic increases including:
- When you expect to see more traffic
- How much traffic you expect
- Will visitors need to take an action, such as sign-up or pre-register, or just consume content
- What PR/communications you have planned to drive traffic
2. Request a site review through Acquia Support or your TAM.
Site reviews look for common issues that could cause problems in high traffic scenarios and make suggestions as to how to improve performance, such as recommending caching improvements or disabling problematic modules.
3. Identify the pages likely to see the most traffic and apply extra diligence to improving their performance.
For example, if your site is handling vaccine registrations, you will need to ensure the form on that page can handle the volume of submissions. If you are just passing patients through to a different registration portal, focus your performance optimization on the portal.
For more detail on the steps to preparing your digital properties for a high-traffic event or website launch, see our support documentation.
4. Understand the difference between authenticated or unauthenticated traffic. Unauthenticated, or anonymous traffic, is easier to cache. Authenticated traffic, such as users who log in to schedule an appointment or see test results, places a higher load on your infrastructure.
5. Consider implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Some people think CDNs are only about improving site speeds across the globe -- not so! One of the primary uses for a CDN is to offload cacheable traffic from your site’s infrastructure to a secondary infrastructure intended to serve large volumes of traffic. CDNs play a key role in keeping high-traffic sites performant under high load.
In addition to improving page load times, a CDN can help prevent denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. In the case of a denial of service attack, a CDN allows content to be served from a variety of other locations, so that your visitors can continue to access the content they need.
6. Conduct load tests!
Load tests help you understand the level of traffic your site can support with its current infrastructure, whether you need to scale up to meet anticipated demand, and if there are performance bottlenecks in your application or with third-party integrations that can be optimized. You will need at least two weeks to write and execute a load test, refactor and deploy optimized code, and retest to confirm improvements. See Acquia’s documentation on load and stress testing to get started.