Posted by: Vala Shahabi | March 14, 2012

Help! My Video went Viral and Crashed my Website!

Last week a new startup,,  launched with a hilarious video done by the co-founder who has stand up comedy experience. You can see the video here:

Great Video but big problem – their website become unresponsive. My browser kept turning its wheels trying to load the page but it was unable to grab any content from the site. The site wasn’t down, it was just overwhelmed with the thousands of requests coming in all at once causing it to become unresponsive.  I was so interested to see their site I logged back in at 1:30 am Pacific time and was finally able to see most of the the site, although it was painfully slow.

The other video that launched last week that went super duper viral, breaking all kinds of records was the Kony 2012 video:

Their site also went down and was acting funny. It was obvious they were hosted on Amazon because you could see the direct s3 domain name in the hostname instead of the invisible hostname.

As mentioned, the problem here is you have this one server (or multiple) trying to serve content to thousands and 10s of thousands of users at the same time. As we noticed, these servers were simply overwhelmed with the amount of users trying to access them at the same time. This requires a distributed massive server infrastructure (2 or more locations) to properly serve all of the requests. The issue with this is that it is a complete waste of money to build out this huge infrastructure for just a launch or a spike in traffic that may occur once in a while.  The real solution is to put a serious Content Delivery Network (CDN) in front of your server to cache your website’s content close to the end users and serve the content without ever going back to your server – providing you with offload, scalability, availability, and performance.

So next time you make or intend to make a viral video, make sure your there is a reputable CDN sitting infront of your website.



  1. Good post using these recent popular examples. In the case of Dollar Shave Club, let’s say they only have a set quantity of stock to sell (although they may not be a perfect example, being a subscription service, but the performance of their website shows that the interest outweighed their expectations). Cloud computing is a good solution for meeting the demand of a sudden spike in interest, but when you have more people on the site trying to order than there are products to sell, you are slowing down (or crashing) the site unnecessarily, and deteriorating the experience for everyone in the process. Not to mention it’s not cost or resource efficient to scale up beyond the sales your website can capture.

    Another solution would be to control the traffic to a website using some kind of external busy system, whereby any visitor over a certain limit is redirected to an external service where, quite transparently, they are filtered into the website as other traffic flows out. This maintains the performance of the main site for those who are currently on it, and research has shown that the time people are wiling to wait for a website or service increases when they are made aware of their progress. This is attractive compared to allowing the site to run slowly or just plain not load, which in most cases sends visitors away permanently, or even to a competitor. Worst of all, nobody wants to wait for a long time only to find their desired product unavailable, due to stock shortage or even the website dying halfway through ordering.

    One of the great things about Cloud Computing as a solution is that it allows you to think outside the box to solve problems!

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