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When things go wrong online, Mirror’s got your back

It’s a writer, web developer, or really anyone who writes a lot of stuff on the Internet’s worst nightmare: you’re in the back-end of a website, and the site crashes. Unfortunately, you haven’t saved your work, and now you’ve lost everything. Crying is, of course, perfectly understandable.

Fed up with unstable content management systems (CMS) crashing, a digital agency took the natural Kiwi response: they developed a solution to the problem.

Known as Mirror, the software provides a layer of support for popular CMS platforms, including WordPress, Joomla and Umbraco. According to Mirror director Dane Tatana, the increased dependence of businesses of all kinds on websites – and the typical expansion of a website over years of use –brought the problem to the fore.  “Website CMS’ aren’t designed to be repositories of large amounts of information, pictures and other assets,” he says. “As a result, many companies are experiencing instability, with websites crashing because the CMS is overwhelmed.”

A CMS supports the creation and modification of digital content, and usually includes features for collaborative working, and functionality such as Web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search, and retrieval. Web content can include text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, maps, and more. However, while they contain substantial quantities of content, CMS systems were not designed as places to store data, meaning they frequently crash due to overloading.

Tatana points out that regardless of what causes a website crash, the consequences for businesses can be serious. “That ranges from lost sales for ecommerce sites, to tarnished reputation – most people today are aware that being online implies being always on – so if the site is down, it just isn’t good enough.” He says the downtime is “incredibly painful” particularly for large businesses.

In short, Mirror creates a parallel storage structure to a CMS site which, as the name implies, mirrors the live CMS. If the CMS encounters any issues, the system falls over to Mirror, with no interruption to service.

“To date, the only other solutions available to prop up straining CMS’ are cache-based,” Tatana says. “This is a method in terms of which the content delivery network takes a snapshot of a site, and places it on servers around the world. While it helps, this method has limitations as the cache refreshes automatically and if it does so when a site is down, the cache will, effectively, be empty.”

With the prototype developed through 2016, a working version of Mirror was released earlier this year. After rolling it out, Les Mills International saw its page load time (how quickly a page comes up) go from 5.92 to 2.9 seconds, while uptime (how often the page works) has hit 100 percent.

According to Bradley Moore, chief digital officer of Les Mills, Mirror was especially helpful when traffic spiked by more than 260 percent during a Les Mills promotion. “It’s great to know that the environment is capable of handling these spikes, improving platform stability and performance.”

Tatana says that in practical terms, Les Mills was a great test of what Mirror could do. “The site was experiencing significant downtime challenges while fielding around 200,000 hits every day,’ he says. “They’ve gone from constantly putting out fires, to no worries in a matter of a day.”

Tatana says Mirror is available immediately as a shared service. He says it’s ideal for any organisation that runs a website, but that it’s particularly suited to those who are experiencing stability issues with large, complex sites.

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