Lewisham council website playing up again

Lewisham Council's website crapping out again at the weekend
By running a web service, I should be able to access the council’s website out of hours. It’s a great idea, because it means that even when the staff aren’t in the office, I can still pay my council tax, or order some green garden bags.

Except that I can’t. For some reason I always end up attempting this task at the end of a weekend. By which time their web services usually look like the screen grab shown above.

Here’s what’s supposed to happen. You’re running some web apps. You monitor the servers that those apps are hosted on. You monitor their vital signs, (are the hard drives ok, has one of the power supplies gone a bit iffy, is it too hot in the server room), then you monitor the services running on that server. Finally you run some sanity checks on the actual web front end every so often. Can you still access the server, is the SQL database still accepting connections, etc etc. If any one of these things fails, someone in your team should be on call, and receive a text message. Then they proxy in, and fix it (or at least reboot something!).

To do this, you use a wonderful system called Nagios. It’s free and open-source, but a bit of a pain to set up, but it’s also highly configurable. You can get it to only fire messages to your on-call person when two minor faults have occurred. You can set it to wait a specific number of minutes to see if a fault resolves itself. You can even start firing text messages and emails to the on-call person’s boss if it’s still broken after a couple of hours!

If you work for Lewisham council, you should ask your IT people about this. It’s not that hard, and if it’s done well, it means that you’ll know about a fault before any of your users do.

Please, for the sake of my untidy garden.

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6 Comments

Filed under blackheath, geek, lewisham

6 responses to “Lewisham council website playing up again

  1. Thanks for drawing this to our attention. We are looking into all the points you raised.

  2. Dart, Liz

    Dear The Blackheath Bugle,

    Thank you for alerting Liz Dart to a problem with the ‘Request green garden waste bags’ web page. Liz is on leave this week so unable to respond to you directly. For assistance with this enquiry, I have forwarded your e-mail to our Media Relations team to investigate further on your behalf.

    Regards,

    Diana

    London Borough of Lewisham, Town Hall | 1 Catford Road | London | SE6 4RU

  3. Our online forms are working well again today. Sorry for the inconvenience. Our IT contractor is looking to identify the exact cause of the problem you experienced over the weekend but early indications are that it was a temporary fault which only affected access to the online forms.

    You might like to know the Council operates a garden waste deposit service on weekend mornings: http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/Garden-waste/Pages/garden-waste-satellite-sites.aspx

    Alternatively, you can pick up garden waste sacks from one of our participating local libraries, order online or phone CallPoint on 020 8314 7171.

    There’s more information at:
    http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/Garden-waste/Pages/Garden-waste-collection-service.aspx

    • Hi – it wasn’t working for most of the day. Everyone knows that servers go down, but it should be possible to detect and correct for them within a few hours minimum… Ask them what their monitoring systems are, and if they can’t remote access out-of-hours, find out why not!

      All the best,

      BB

  4. Mike Evans

    I tried the online parking consultation form a week ago [yes,yes, Lewisham is consulting, even if there has been no publicity]. After 20 mins of box checking, it spat out an error message. So I emailed the contact address. No reply. Tried agin two days later. No reply. Triedagain……etc. Gave up.

  5. We’re really sorry if you’ve had a bad experience. If you are able to give us the email address you contacted we will definitely follow up to find out what has happened and why you haven’t received a response. There was a short power outage on the system and you may have fallen foul to this so we apologise for that. It’s frustrating we know but if you are able to try the system again we’d very much welcome your feedback. Alternatively we can send you a hard copy of the survey questions if you prefer.

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