Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

The Charlie Hebdo effect

In France today long queues are forming to buy the latest edition of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. As we all know, a week ago 12 people were murdered at the magazine's offices. As you would expect from all the media and international response, the amount of people around the world wanting to find out more and to see the latest edition of the magazine online has increased by an amazing 30,000%; of course this has a huge impact on the hosting.

One of InventCommerce hosting partners, NBS System in France, has been hosting the Charlie Hebdo site for a number of years. Originally they were asked by the French government to help Charlie Hebdo due to the number of hack attacks that had occurred since the first release of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammad. To stop the attacks NBS built the Cerberhost solution that provides 7 layers of protection from attacks. When Charlie Hebdo were migrated to Cerberhost the down time on the website reduced to zero hours.

However, since the major incident that occurred last week at Charlie Hebdo offices, the number of visitors has increase from 5,000 per day to 1.5 million per day. Of course a lot of these will be DDOS attacks as we have been told by NBS that these attack attempts have not stopped since Charlie Hebdo were migrated. However the majority of traffic will be genuine site visitors interested in finding out about the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The following email was sent by NBS to all customer and partners:

"Dear customers, dear partners,

We are all under shock after the recent event that decimated Charlie Hebdo.

This event has a different impact, personal and professional for NBS System, who host Charlie’s website.

The recent terrorist strike against the journal was followed by a tremendous online attack against Charlie Hebdo’s site.

This site is protected by Cerberhost, our high security environment and was not (and will not) be compromised or taken down. That said, the site traffic jumped from 5000 visitor a day to nearly 1.5 Million, hence the application couldn’t take the load. Actually, our team is working tightly with the system integrator in charge of the development to accept the millions of visitors that are expected.

We were perturbed by those events on a human level (some of us knew the cartoonists personally) and technically since these attacks took place on the first day of French winter sales.

We are deeply sorry for the potential lack of responsiveness we had during this troubled period of time. Things got back to normal since but our services were perturbed and we would like to apologize for this.

Contact us if you want to discuss more about this."

At the moment if you visit the site you will just see the following single holding page as the Solution Integrator and NBS work to get the site up tuned for the 1.5 millions unique visitor load.

 Charlie Hebdo holding page

When a hosting solution is architected, predicted load and peak performance load are a key aspect for deciding on the number of servers required and the cost. Normally 2X the predicted load is built in and additional load can be handled with horizontal scaling of servers (cloud/VM). However, due to the costs, no one would ever architect a solution to handle 30,000% of normal load. To handle this load there would need to be 150x more server power and of course the cost would also increase by 150 times. I doubt that Charlie Hebdo want to make that outlay at the moment. 

We hope that both NBS and the Solution Integrator can find a solution that is cost effective for Charlie Hebdo while there is such a demand for the magazine.

Good luck guys!