Nearly 20 percent of online retailers experienced downtime during the 2011 holiday season, according to a new, national survey of ecommerce decision-makers conducted by Rackspace. The survey shows that 81 percent of respondents are taking steps to improve the online shopping experience for this year’s holiday season. Nearly half (48 percent) said they will increase computing capacity and more than a quarter (28 percent) are working with their third party hosting provider to make sure customers can keep shopping online during high-traffic periods. Many of the eretailers surveyed will rely on internal IT resources to see them through the season, and 29 percent said they are hiring more IT staff. More than a third said they would use load testing (37 percent) and build up website redundancy (33 percent).
According to Adrianna Bustamante, who leads ecommerce channel development at Rackspace, retailers can take the following steps to help ensure their ecommerce sites perform at their peak potential during the holiday buying scramble.
- Pre-plan with your hosting provider: Communication with your hosting provider should be the foundation of your online strategy. Are you doubling your product SKUs this quarter? Are you running social media campaigns that could quadruple your traffic? Review your environment to make sure it can handle your anticipated plans and the traffic that is sure to follow.
- Optimization through configuration: By taking a close look at your environment, identify how you can maximize and optimize your infrastructure. Leveraging a content delivery network (CDN) for file or media storage allows you to cache content at global edge locations, saving users time. This is a huge help for page load times.
- Identify single points of failure: It’s important to know where your vulnerabilities lie. Should you add for high availability (HA)? Do you have a failover strategy? These are important questions that online retailers have to evaluate.
- Enable dynamic scaling within the app tier: Immediate scaling is not always possible, even in a cloud environment. While technology improves daily, it depends a lot on the application, which may take additional development to enable dynamic scaling.
- Load test, load test, load test: You invest a ton to make your site the best it can be and to provide a great user experience. Test your site to be sure it can handle increased traffic. Consider enabling synthetic transaction monitoring to make sure your site experience is what it should be.
As more of the economy relies on IT to deliver competitive advantage, it becomes more critical than ever to have access to resources that are always available when needed, and will stay up and running. Increasingly, cloud resources are becoming that foundation for building new growth.