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09/15/2005 - TourFactory Weathers Terabyte Storm

Early Monday morning, August 22, Dave Gay, COO and Herb Dierks, CTO arrived for work at the TourFactory to find their servers coping with a torrential stream of traffic. Their first thought was they were dealing with a “denial of service” attack. They quickly moved to establish a defense, started diagnostics, and learned that packets were coming from literally all over the world. Then they discovered that the traffic was going to a single virtual tour. That virtual tour was the home of Clay Akins in the San Fernando Valley, and site visitors were not potential buyers -- they were Akins fans seeking a peek at how Akins lives. The tour had been posted by a realtor in that area.

TourFactory serves real estate agents all over the United States from their headquarters in the Fernwell Building at 505 W Riverside. The TourFactory Internet tours include panning photographs of the inside and exterior of the property --- most commonly of houses, but also some apartments, vacation rentals, or commercial property. Each tour has text identifying a room and explaining the amenities and attributes of each room. Audio is available including background music and vocals explaining the attributes of the property. Each tour contains a wealth of information.

As they worked, Gay and Dierks leaned that a direct link to the Akins home virtual tour had been posted in a gossip column on After the link was posted, the hits began in earnest at 3:00 am and peaked at 9:00 am. At the peak, hits were coming in at 2,000 per minute. The Akins tour brought 60,000 unique users the first few hours, with a total of 98,000 unique users throughout the day. There was a total of 1.1 million hits. Dierks said that there would probably have been more if they hadn't been limited by a 100 Mb local pipe. The siege stopped when the realtor removed the tour.

Early on, TourFactory called 180 Networks, their service provider, to warn them of the traffic. Technicians at 180 had already noted the abnormal spike in traffic and had determined that the traffic was legitimate.
Through it all, there was no system crash. “Now we know what we can do,” says Gay. “This showed how very robust our connectivity in the Terabyte Triangle is.”

Even without Clay Akins, TourFactory is moving more than a terabyte of data every month. They have almost 17,000 homes posted on their in-house servers for tours. Because the tours are so media rich, they have at least a half a terabyte worth of data stored on their servers, and that grows daily. Their statistics show that they moved more than one-fourth of a terabyte in the first eight days of September. “We call it the ‘Terabyte of the Month Club’,” joked Dierks.

The Clay Akins tour is gone, but there are many houses available for the home buyer at

Billie Moreland
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