Another way for firms to ensure their websites are up to the job is by the use of capacity planning tools that help in preparation for peaks and troughs in demand on designated national shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
"Add in the layers of complexity driven by mobile consumers, and many organisations are finding that applying advanced operational analytics to their capacity planning – using real data as the basis for building contingency plans – gives them the confidence needed when making fundamental decisions to support peaks in demand," says Peter Duffy, CTO at Sumerian.
Duffy says there is no reason why companies and customers alike should continue to suffer due to outages caused by poor IT capacity planning.
"Companies need to be ready to support growth, and in the age of online retailing, that all begins with knowing exactly what capacity headroom they have available, and having the ability to model different scenarios of increased demand on existing and hypothetical infrastructure. This enables them to know exactly how much traffic they will be able to cope with, and plan accordingly," he says.
Clouding the issue
Mendez says that some firms should take advantage of cloud load balancing. He says this enables traffic to be distributed across multiple virtual cloud servers that are within the same data centre, or across multiple data centres for additional redundancy. "A load balanced cloud means web hosting can be extremely robust and flexible, increasing the reliability – and therefore the user experience – even as a website grows."
Another way to avoid putting pressure on the system is to let someone else take the heat and use a content delivery network (CDN), with queuing systems being used like a safety valve.
"These redirect visitors to a third-party website until the main site has the capacity to deal with them," says Alex Painter, website performance consultant for NCC Group. "Instead of a blank screen or error message, visitors get meaningful feedback while they wait. This is good for delivering a relatively seamless experience and also reduces the extent to which traffic problems are exacerbated by frustrated users hitting the refresh button."
Some outages are inevitable, but if a business takes steps to test and optimise its site, the firm can at least take some comfort in the knowledge that it wasn't the architect of its own demise.
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