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Virgin Trains

The West Coast line, once a source of acute embarrassment to the companies that operated it, has become a jewel in the crown of the Virgin Group. Under the flamboyant encouragement of the legendary Sir Richard Branson, and equipped with a whole new fleet of exceptionally modern rolling stock, the re-engineered line has flourished.

QUALITY, FREQUENCY, COMFORT
Today, operating under the Virgin Trains Brand, the West Coast line is providing an exceptional rail travel service to and from the North West of the country. Its tilting Pendolino and Super Voyager trains have speeded up services and greatly improved the quality and frequency of rail travel - train services increased by 30 percent following Network Rail's £ 9,00bn upgrade of the West Coast Main Line.

 

NEW TECHNOLOGY AND MODERN MARKETING
Such a business, maximising on the use of new technology, needs modern marketing techniques to match. Few companies equal the energy and approach taken by Virgin when it comes to bringing a product to our attention.

The Virgin Trains website is certainly no exception. The Digital Manager at Virgin Trains is Angela Oliver. "My task was to simplify the way customers searched for information and/or booked a ticket online, Working closely with usability specialists cxpartners, The Trainline and Elvis our Digital Communications Agency, to deliver the new site, I needed to ensure we had a hosting partner that could provide an infrastructure that would support extreme fluctuations in traffic.

 

TESTING FOR EVERY EVENTUALITY
Angela went on to say, "Our hosting partner, recommended by Elvis Communications, is Rackspace® Hosting. Apart from the Fanatical Support®, hardware and uptime guarantees they also offered to provide a complete load testing service to ensure the site was capable of withstanding the spikes and variations caused by events, such as holiday rushes, strikes, weather problems and similar out of the ordinary situations."

Angela revealed, "Testing the website to simulate exceptionally high levels of traffic was essential as it not only allowed us to see exactly how the site performed in a whole variety of situations, but also let us see precisely what happened to the site when peak loads were approached or exceeded. Our customers expect the website to be up and running regardless of exceptional events, so it was vital to invest in such pre-testing to ensure that the core infrastructure could genuinely cope with any unusual spikes."

 

ISSUES REVEALED
“The load tests conducted by Rackspace Professional Services did reveal some small inconsistencies relating to the speed of one of the embedded elements, but some good technical advice from Rackspace quickly sorted this out and I was able to confirm that the new website was more than capable of handling unusually high levels of traffic.”

Angela continued, "Since launch we have discovered that the site runs faultlessly, even during the most recent bouts of heavy snow when, on one day traffic increased by 170% in comparison with the same day a week before. Other days resulted in over 106% increase in traffic. The site performed faultlessly as these possibilities had been taken into account. The load testing ensured peace of mind from the outset and has certainly been well worth the initial investment and effort required to simulate the majority of potential 'disaster' situations."

 

STABLE PLATFORM
Matt Griffiths is Strategic IT Project Manager for Virgin Trains. "Rackspace's load testing gave us the confidence that the site would not be unduly affected by abnormal demands, and since launch we have had 100% uptime. Our Rackspace hosting solution is based on Linux, which has proven to be immensely stable, but has also provided some significant cost benefits, as many of the add-ons we have introduced are based on existing open source developments in the market, which has helped immensely in keeping our development costs down.
Additional services provided by Rackspace include managed backup, monitoring, load balancing and a fully burstable bandwidth facility.”

 

METICULOUS SUPPORT AND SERVICE
In summary Angela Oliver said, "I'd recommend Rackspace to other companies. Their support and service has been meticulous and the load testing package gave us a huge level of confidence that our new site would not fall over as soon as it was launched.

 

FUTURE PROOFING
Rackspace EMEA Managing Director is Brian Thomson "I am very proud to be associated with Virgin and to provide advanced hosting for the Virgin Trains site. Our load testing service has proven to be exceptionally useful in this situation, and is part of a range of additional services offered by Rackspace that allow companies to have complete peace of mind, and a level of future proofing that was previously unimaginable.

Where do you want to be? How about a place where you can travel in a faster, more comfortable and greener way? A place where you are greeted with warmth and a smile? Then welcome to Virgin Trains. Book in advance online at virgintrains.com , or call 0871 977 4222.

If you require the ultimate hosting services where nothing is left to chance, then there is www.rackspace.co.uk. Please visit our website at any time or call us for FREE hosting advice on 0800 988 0100.