Data Centers

How your company can avoid an IT nightmare like the IRS outage on Tax Day

The Direct Pay and Payment Plan portions of the site were unavailable following massive traffic spikes.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • The IRS's Direct Pay and Payment Plan sections of its website were taken offline following heavy traffic on the US Tax Day of April 17.
  • With investments in hardware and software, a company can avoid a massive outage like the one experience by the IRS.

On US Tax Day, the biggest day of the year for the IRS, key portions of its website were taken offline. As noted by our sister site ZDNet, both the "Direct Pay" and "Payment Plan" options were made unavailable, perhaps due to the increase in traffic requests.

For a while, the only option to pay taxes online was through a debit or credit card. This may not seem like a bad idea, but the website charges a fee to do so ($2 to $3.95 for debit and 3% for credit, CNBC noted).

Tuesday was the final day for Americans to file their yearly tax documents. And the folks that needed to make payments had to deal with limited options. Due to the site crashes, the IRS actually extended the deadline by a single day, CNBC noted.

SEE: Disaster recovery and business continuity plan (Tech Pro Research)

"This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers," acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said in a statement Tuesday.

While early speculation seemed to point to a variety of causes, including a possible cyberattack, it's very likely that the outage was caused by heavy traffic and an infrastructure that couldn't keep up with the demand.

To avoid a similar situation, your IT department should be running tests on your app server capacity and be looking into possible server upgrades. IT can also provision new hardware to help with capacity and scalability, but this creates the need for more management oversight and other potential headaches.

There's also the software route. If an organization has the technical prowess to pull it off, using additional caching layers could help with scalability. Other type of caches like distributed and clustered caches should also be considered.

Of course, there is also the cloud route, as companies like Amazon Web Services offer a plethora of scalable compute options like EC2 and more. However, if an organization is beholden to a given set of compliance standards, this might not be the best option.

Network traffic will always be a problem among businesses both small and large. But, by staying in front of possible spikes and investing in infrastructure to mitigate the problems, a company can maintain its brand in turbulent times.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/nito100

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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