AMBER Alert always ready for huge visitor numbers thanks to performance testing

AMBER Alert is the national warning system of the Dutch police for urgent missing children and child abductions. If a child goes missing, the system enables Dutch citizens to be alerted immediately to help with the search. Since its inception in 2008, AMBER Alert has grown massively. In order to continue to meet the requirements and handle the massive number of simultaneous visitors, the technology behind the website is constantly evolving. For instance, the hosting platform was recently completely overhauled. As the performance testing partner, Computest was closely involved.

When founder Frank Hoen launched AMBER Alert, the world looked very different: “It was harder to measure how the platform was performing and how many visitors it could handle. We now have a much better picture of that. These insights are essential, as the Dutch public relies on AMBER Alert to bring children safely back home.”

7.5 million requests per minute

The new AMBER Alert platform was designed to handle millions of visitors at any moment, 24 hours per day, without requiring additional capacity. The platform can handle no fewer than 7.5 million requests per minute. “That sounds like a lot, but when you realise that some three million Dutch people receive the AMBER Alerts and twelve million see them indirectly, you can appreciate that when we send out an alert, the site has to be able to handle millions of visitors at the same time,” explains Hoen.

Every second counts

“And when you are trying to trace a kidnapped or missing child, your website is the last thing you want to be worrying about,” he continues. “We are talking about a child’s life and every second counts. To get our new platform to perform optimally and be assured that it won't let us down at critical moments, we have a partnership with Computest.”

When you are trying to trace a kidnapped or missing child, your website is the last thing you want to be worrying about.

Frank Hoen, Founder of AMBER Alert

The added value of the partnership with Computest is clear to Hoen. “Thanks to the observations of the testers, we have really been able to optimise the new platform. Without the right tools and expertise, it's hard to establish how far you can go before the system breaks down.

How hard can you run before you collapse? And more importantly: how can you avoid it? That really calls for specialists. With Computest, we always have them at our disposal.”

Mass performance testing with Loadfarm

By conducting massive performance tests with Computest's special Loadfarm tool, AMBER Alert is assured that the redesigned platform can handle the maximum load. “We also keep our finger on the pulse over the year with performance testing. Because as a platform we are always under development and we are never done. For instance, we recently added an extra channel in the shape of WhatsApp neighbourhood prevention groups in order to reach as many people as possible. That means we have to keep testing to make sure performance continues to be good under all circumstances. Hoen also finds the focus on performance testing reassuring: “It’s really good to know that if you get a phone call in the night telling you to put out an AMBER Alert, you can be sure the system will work.”

The fact that we can be confident that our platform is always ready to perform at its best provides a sense of security.

Frank Hoen, Founder of AMBER Alert

The AMBER Alert system has already been deployed more than a thousand times in the Netherlands. And successfully so. In 94 percent of cases, the child was found. Of course, the ‘right to be forgotten’ is also very important, particularly with the new GDPR. As soon as the AMBER Alert has been cancelled, all content and images must be immediately deleted from the platform. Any delay in the system is unacceptable.

A sense of security

“The fact that we can be confident that our platform is always ready to perform at its best provides a sense of security. After all, you never know beforehand when a report will come in and the system will have to deliver top performance. Partly thanks to our partnership with Computest, we are well prepared for that. Apart from that, we continue to pioneer and where possible we implement the most advanced technologies in our system. Because the more ways to trace missing children, the better,” concludes Hoen.

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