It’s been a few weeks since I’ve provided you with an update on our site performance, so I wanted to take a step away from working with our team on our site to tell you about what we’ve been up to behind the scenes.
As I mentioned in my last post, the amount of data that we host on the site, along with the complexity of the services we offer (trees, search, records, hinting, etc.), has led us to a point where we began to experience performance and stability issues with our site. In the past, we’ve been able to add hardware to keep up with needs, but now we have to make smart and purposeful changes to our infrastructure, which are taking time for us to execute.
This is a really big deal, and we have been putting a lot of focus on this issue across the entire company to make sure that we can deliver a fast, reliable experience to our customers and scale our technology to keep up with the growth that the company expects to have over the next 5 years and beyond. It has been all hands on deck to make sure we’re addressing the issues impacting our customers.
Site Performance and Stability Update
Though some of you may have felt the impact as we’ve been working behind the scenes, I want to point out that we’ve made some good strides in improving the site performance and stability. Some quick updates on how it’s going:
- Performance – In the short-term, we’ve been focusing on the main areas of the site that you interact with most – the top pages and features that are used. We know that the load times and stability of those pages hasn’t always been optimal as we’ve been working on upgrades to our infrastructure. We still have work to do, since it’s not fast enough for our expectations, so we will be continuing our intense short-term effort over the next 4 week period to accelerate changes and this will remain an important priority as we move forward.
- Stability – With a system as complex as ours we can’t guarantee that there will never be failures, but when a failure does occur we can handle it better so that it has less impact on people visiting the site. This means being more resilient when unexpected tech issues happen to help minimize the impact to our customers.
There is a lot more detail behind these two highlights – including network improvements, storage enhancements, and other updates to our sites – but I wanted to highlight the key things and let you know that we are fully committed to keeping a higher level of focus on performance and stability over the long-term to make sure that our systems are capable of what’s needed from them.
There may be some pain as we attempt to change the wings while the aircraft is in flight because we can’t shut the site down while we make these fundamental changes. This will take time over the coming months, but these changes are necessary and we will do everything we can to reduce the pain as much as possible.
Customer Communications Update
I also wanted to note that we’ve been building and updating a few tools to help communicate better with you around site issues. We’re just as frustrated as you are when site issues occur and we aren’t able to communicate fast enough to everyone. This is something that is top of mind for us and we’ve pulled together a few things to help keep communication more open with you.
I want to highlight a few – so you know where to expect site alert information from us moving forward.
- Site Banners – If a certain section of our site is having issues, the first place we will post will be directly on the site or page that is having issues. We know that not everyone has Facebook or visits our message boards, so you will see planned maintenance or site issues communicated in a blue or red banner on the top of the site. This communication vehicle has been our #1 spot to communicate in the past, and we’re currently working to make further improvements to it to ensure it continues to keep you updated on what’s happening directly on the site.
- New Site Alerts Page – Outside of the site banners, we have created a new page on our customer help section that will keep you updated real-time about site issues. You can get to this section by clicking the “Get Help” in the upper right hand corner on Ancestry.com. It’s not available for all geographies yet, but we’re working to make that possible. This should be your go-to spot if you’re ever curious about what’s happening with the site, as we have a team in place that will work hard to communicate regularly as we have planned maintenance or as site issues arise.
Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding as we build an improved site experience for you. I’ll be posting again as I have more information to share.
Chief Technology Officer
About Scott Sorensen
Scott Sorensen has served as Chief Technology Officer of Ancestry.com since April 2013. Scott has been at the company since June 2002 and has held multiple positions including Senior Vice President of Engineering, Vice President of Search and Vice President of Commerce. Prior to joining Ancestry.com, Scott was co-founder and Vice President of Engineering and then President at Coresoft Technologies. Scott was an engineering manager at WordPerfect / Novell and a software engineer at IBM. He holds a B.S in Computer Science from Brigham Young University.
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