Healthcare.gov’s November performance

American politics is always a hectic affair and the rollout of the Healthcare.gov for Americans everywhere has been a bumpy path. In response to this, we would like to release some facts about the response time and availability of the Healthcare.gov website for bloggers and journalists to use as a resource in their own coverage. Using our own Panopta server monitoring system, we set up network checks on the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.Gov website finding it was only available for use by the American public 86% of the time during the month of November!

That 86% availability is, by the standards of any online industry, abysmal. Now, it is understood that the roll out of healthcare.gov was “fumbled” but how and where was healthcare.gov fumbled? We checked the healthcare.gov servers, every minute, to check different aspects of the public facing infrastructure including Authoritative DNS, HTTP availability and content checks.

The HTTP content checks were set up to see if Americans could sign-up for insurance through a log in page that we found that was only available 86% of the time. We checked https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/global/en_US/registration looking for the phrase “the system is down at the moment.” If that text was present on the page (see image below), then we would register this as time where the site was unavailable for the public to sign-up for insurance.

Step9

This unavailability totaled to over 4 days and 6 hours in 54 outages across the month of November. This content unavailability made up the bulk of the downtime for healthcare.gov but other aspects of their network infrastructure had outages as well. It is important to note that some of those outages may be planned maintenance to the healthcare website, which do impact users but are sometimes the only good ways of making improvements.

Healthcare.gov suffered over 6 hours of DNS outages. But Healthcare.gov has a robust DNS infrastructure on separate coasts with multiple backups so it is possible -because at no point were all of the DNS servers down- that availability to all users across the Nation were not impacted by these isolated DNS outages. Though it is not ideal to lose a DNS server, Healthcare.gov’s expansive DNS infrastructure keeps it available to users and can help it prevent DDoS attacks.

A quick reminder, DNS is the domain name system that allows websites to be found using a “name” like “healthcare.gov” instead of a set of numbers, an IP address, like “172.226.55.205”. DNS is a critical aspect of any website’s infrastructure because it allows users to find your website easily with a domain name. Having an expansive set of backup DNS servers are part of our recommendations for maintaining good DNS related uptime.

The combined DNS and HTTP outages totaled to 4 days and 11 hours of total downtime for healthcare.gov. This startlingly bad start means there is definitely room to improve.

Probably included in those improvements are changes like this page (see below), which has been added but still designates time where Americans cannot sign up for insurance. We have added HTTP content checks that will be watching for outages when this page appears.

Health Insurance Marketplace- Please wait

We will continue to keep our eye out for improvements and outages for the healthcare.gov website and release another summary for its December performance to see if those improvement benefit the American Public, the end user. For the most updated facts, follow us on twitter or send us an email at pr@panopta.com.

Robert B.