UK Government Websites’ Performance Under the Microscope

We all need to be tested from time to time. This is also true of websites. Website monitoring and downtime service, StatusCake, decided to look at the performance of all the domains run by the UK government. There were 2,653 of them in all. It was no small feat, but we’re glad they put the effort in because it helps other people appreciate what’s possible when running multiple websites at scale.

What Did StatusCake Discover?

The testing was undertaken during June 2018 and it ran for 30 days. StatusCake looked at the uptime performance of each of the websites. The idea with uptime is to determine when a website goes offline perhaps because of a technical malfunction like some server hardware failed or a crash. Uptime is a key measurement because even a small amount of uptime/downtime can be hugely inconvenient – especially if a person or a business in the UK is trying to file a report, make a payment, or complete another important action that has a time component to it.

What the testing company found was, across the domains, their uptime percent was 97.12%. With percentages, it’s difficult to appreciate what that means in the real world. To equate this to time, it means that across the sites, there were around twenty hours of downtime each month. For a full year, that’s 10 days of lost time where some sites were offline.

That’s kind of surprising and not in a good way.

How is Testing Done?

The way uptime is tested for a website is fairly simple. The software performs a lookup of the website.

First, the physical server location on the world wide web is looked up by using the domain name server record (DNS). Once this is done, the testing starts properly.

Second, the website is tested to see whether the server is responding and will load. The basic files of the website are downloaded. This excludes extra files like JavaScript/AJAX ones, which aren’t necessary for testing.

The more times the website was accessed during the 30-day period of testing, the more data points were created. Therefore, when testing one hundred times, every test constitutes one percentage point. When testing more frequently, it’s possible to get more granular with fractions of a percent.

Loading Time and Best/Worst Performers

Overall, there were 964 domains that experienced no downtime at all. Their uptime was 100%. So, 36% of the domains which were checked passed with flying colours. Their homepage loaded in an average time of just 0.47 seconds, which is quick and shouldn’t cause many people to give up and click their ‘Back’ button. The was the fastest domain loading in just 5.8 milliseconds; was the 10th fastest and it loaded in 13 milliseconds.

On the flipside, of the sites that experienced downtime of a day per month, 4% of the domains tested fit into this category. The and sites were the worst performers.

Overall, it was a mixed bag with the performance of UK government websites variable. It wasn’t too bad in aggregate, but the downtime for the worst websites was surprisingly high.


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