Dec 02 2019

Here’s How to Keep A Website Humming, No Matter How Much Traffic It Gets

Crashes are common on Cyber Monday. But they don’t have to be.

Retailers spend a lot of time and money building up excitement for today’s big Cyber Monday holiday shopping events. Their websites and online, TV and newspaper ads shout about “doorbusters”; #cybermonday and related hashtags are baked into their Twitter posts; emails go out to past customers offering them additional discounts for stopping by again; and their Facebook pages tantalize with the promise of gift cards or coupon codes.

Last year, U.S. online sales on Cyber Monday were $7.9 billion, with a growing share coming from mobile transactions. This year Cyber Monday is expected to set a new record as the largest — and fastest-growing — online shopping day of the year with $9.4 billion in projected sales. More than 50 percent of people will rely on Cyber Monday for discount purchases vs. 44 percent who rely on Black Friday.

That’s a lot of shopping, and a lot of people logging in to get the deals.

Cyber Monday Has Previously Outmatched Major Retailers’ Websites 

Retailers, of course, love boosting sales, but Cyber Monday always brings trepidation about whether their websites will be able to handle the load. A range of major retailers had server issues on Cyber Monday or Black Friday last year, with sites being down for a few minutes or intermittently. Other online shops apologized to customers for not being able to process their orders because their systems were overwhelmed by the number of visitors to their sites.

The lost revenue for this downtime have been estimated to exceed $40,000 per minute for some of the biggest retailers. Slow performance hurts too: The longer it takes a page to load, the lower the conversion rate is. Even a two-second delay in web page load time can increase bounce rates by 103 percent.

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Why Sites Underperform and How to Avoid This

A mismatch between traffic levels and a site’s infrastructure capacity usually is the culprit. Traffic levels can be 30 times higher on big sale days than on other days. More users, fewer server resources, insufficient bandwidth equals a crash or delay.

And while Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, it’s by no means the only one that strains servers. Retailers need to be able to handle the added pressure brought on by holidays such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, plus any sales events that retailers themselves put on.

Here are a few tech solutions that can help retailers stay online no matter what:

  • Upgrade to faster and more powerful servers for onsite infrastructure. It’s a quick and easy scaling fix, but it may not be sustainable as the business and website traffic grows.
  • Opt for dedicated hosting. Smaller retailers may use shared hosting provider services, but as business builds, that model may no longer provide the resources needed to keep the website up and running. With a dedicated hosting service, whether managed or unmanaged, the business leases an entire server and all of its resources and can configure it just as they like for improved speed and performance for high-traffic needs.  
  • Use a content delivery network. This is a platform for delivering static content — that is, website content that rarely changes. The same file is delivered to every user and resources are freed up to focus on dynamic content, such as checkout pages. Cloud service providers may offer this capability.
  • Consider a virtual waiting room. This is a cloud-based traffic flow management service that “queues up” online visitors when traffic hits a predefined threshold. Once the surge drops, they can be moved into the website in the order in which they arrived.
  • Move to the cloud. No discussion of website traffic management is complete without mentioning the cloud, which offers high flexibility and scalability. The business is only charged for the resources it is using, so it can lower its costs as it backs down from the holiday highs. Websites can be hosted in different geographical areas for staying close to customers around the world.
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