How do the Calendar Feeds Work?

One of the most useful features of your association's website is the ability to automatically download and synchronize your team(s) schedules into your primary calendar.  This also puts enormous strain on the MBSportsWeb servers & infrastructure, so we have put in place a number of safeguards and strategies to help ensure the schedules returned are as up-to-date as possible without over-straining our network.
 
This article explains some of the technical details about how the calendar feeds work, which will help to set expectations of how frequently the schedules will be updated in your primary calendar.  This article will be updated as needed if things change.
 
There are either three or four "layers" to the process of delivering a calendar feed from the association website to a calendar somewhere else.  The difference will depend on what type of device or software your primary calendar is located.  These layers are:
  • The Source - the association website where the feeds originate.  The raw data for the schedules and events is stored in memory and refreshed every 30 minutes at the most.  If changes are made to the data which are "imminent" then the data is refreshed more often.
  • CloudFlare - we use CloudFlare's services for a variety of things, but in this case we leverage their Content Delivery Network (CDN) to store a copy of each calendar feed requested.  We instruct CloudFlare to keep a copy of each feed for 24 hours before requesting an updated version.  However, we also keep track of changes made in "The Source" and if a change is made that affects the next 7 days we tell CloudFlare to get an updated version of the affected feeds within 15 minutes of the change happening.
  • (optional) The Cloud Calendar - for people who use Android devices, their default calendar is powered by Google Calendar.  Similarly, Windows Phone (or Windows 10) devices will leverage the Outlook.com Calendar.  What is very important to note about these "Cloud Calendars" is that they are notoriously slow to update information provided by subscribed calendars.  Google typically refreshes about every 24 hours and Outlook.com refreshes about every 48 hours.
  • The Device - this could be an iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac, PC, Android, Blackberry, etc - it's the place where you would view your calendar.  However, your experiences will vary based on what type of device you use and what software is involved.  We'll go through some of the most popular devices and software below so you can set expectations.
 
Note - in all cases, the calendar feeds should never be used to be alerted of changes made to the schedule on the same date or the following day.  We strongly recommend also subscribing to email and/or text message notifications of changes, and before leaving the house it's a good idea to double-check the website for the latest, up-to-the-second schedule.  The calendar feeds provided by your association website shouldn't be refreshed more often than every 2 hours, but there are some scenarios (descried below) where updates happen more quickly or more slowly.
 

Mobile Devices

 
iOS Devices (iPhone / iPad / iPod)
The native calendar app in iOS provides one of the best experiences for subscribed calendars.  On these devices, the calendar app directly subscribes to the calendar and will check CloudFlare for an updated version of the calendar feed every 30 minutes.  It could check more often than that, but 30 minutes is the minimum value that CloudFlare will allow us to instruct the device to check for a new version.  So in the worst-case scenario it could be 45 minutes after a change is made on the website before it appears on the device (up to 15 minutes for CloudFlare to update, and up to 30 minutes for the device to update).  It's also important to note that the calendar app will only update its information if the app is opened - in our testing the background refresh does not appear to apply to the calendar app.
 
BlackBerry Devices
Starting in version 10.2 of the BlackBerry OS, these devices allow for direct calendar subscriptions similar to what's available on iOS devices.  We have not done extensive testing on these devices to understand the frequency of which they update subscribed calendars.
 
Android Devices
If using the standard calendar, which is powered by Google Calendar, even though the Android device will continually synchronize with Google Calendar, it's the Google Calendar itself that will only update information from calendar subscriptions about every 24 hours - sometimes more, sometimes less.  There are numerous ongoing discussions happening on the Google Calendar product forums with people asking for faster refresh rates, but since most of these discussions have been happening for 3-6 years, it doesn't appear Google Calendar will be changing anytime soon.
 
Windows Phone Devices
Windows Phone devices will only synchronize their calendars with the Outlook.com calendar, and just like Android connecting to Google Calendar, Windows Phone devices synchronize with the Outlook.com calendar frequently but the Outlook.com calendar only updates with subscribed calendars about every 48 hours.  There are also many Outlook.com users who find this unacceptable on the Microsoft product forums, but again many of these discussions have been happening for several years.
 
Non-Standard Calendar Apps
There are also other apps out there which provide calendar features for various devices.  Many of these apps exist for the Android platform so that the calendar can connect directly with subscribed calendars just like on iOS / BlackBerry.  If you're not happy with the default experience using Google Calendar on an Android device, we suggest you search for alternatives which have "native CalDAV" support.  Unfortunately for Windows Phone users, we know of no app available as an alternative to the native Outlook.com-powered experience.
 

Desktop Devices & Software

 
Mac OSx - iCalendar
Just like on iOS devices, Apple has a native calendar application built-in to Mac OSx and it works basically the same - which is that it provides an ideal experience.  Calendars are subscribed directly within the app and they will check for updates every 30 minutes as long as the app is open.
 
Windows 10 - Native Calendar App
The "Mail and Calendar" apps included in the latest version of Windows are powered by the cloud just like on Windows Phone devices.  So the Outlook.com calendar is where the subscription happens and even though the Calendar app in Windows 10 will synchronize frequently with Outlook.com, the cloud calendar only updates its subscriptions every 48 hours.
 
Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 - Outlook 2013, 2016 
If you use Outlook version 2013 or later, the calendar component of that software allows you to subscribe to a calendar from the Internet.  Outlook will check for an updated version of the calendar only as frequently as defined by the feed itself (every 2 hours) and will do so automatically in the background as long as Outlook remains open.
 
Other Desktop Calendar Software
There are hundreds of other calendar applications which can be used on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines.  As long as these applications have native "CalDAV" support, they should be able to directly subscribe to a calendar (without using a cloud calendar) and should also update very frequently.
 
 
Last Updated - September 15, 2016
 
 

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Shaun, Is there a way to put information in the association Calendar and have it cascade down to each teams Calendar? We would like to add events and Ice blackouts. We would like to show them on the association page and also on each team page, without having to add it 11 times
Jeff Jackson (October 2 at 3:42 PM)

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