19 Ways to Guarantee Website Uptime on Black Friday

Black Friday

Make sure you don’t inadvertently close up shop on Black Friday

The predicted £1bn sales figure for Black Friday has made website availability and performance a board level concern for online retailers, with preparations for this year’s event starting as soon as last year’s ended for some. At Intechnica we have been working alongside several leading UK retailers to help them be fully prepared for whatever Black Friday brings.

Without revealing all of our methods, we’ve compiled a quick checklist of things retailers should have done to plan and prepare for Black Friday, along with some last minute checks and actions they might still be able to consider. How many have you thought about and do you feel fully prepared?

Planning – In the lead up to Black Friday

  1. Assign an owner and team dedicated fully to the specific task of preparing the website for Black Friday.
  2. Agree on the budget – performance doesn’t come for free. How much is uptime and speedy response times worth to the business on Black Friday? (We can help you figure this out!)
  3. Find out how much traffic is expected and its nature. Work closely with the marketing department to find these out based on planned activity along with overall trends. This information should include baseline traffic levels, the size of peaks, how fast they are expected to hit, where the traffic is likely to come from and how users are expected to behave on the site.
  4. Measure how much traffic the site can handle and where the bottlenecks are through thorough performance testing and analysis.
  5. Validate that your test results make sense and are realistic!
  6. Identify existing means to scale up the website’s capacity, e.g. capacity planning, cloud hosting, failover capacity, disaster recovery etc.
  7. Optimise performance in quick development sprints, focusing on low hanging fruit and test the results regularly.
  8. Move hits away from the domain using CDNs etc.
  9. Reduce the size of traffic hits, e.g. optimise image sizes, minify JavaScript etc.
  10. Cache content as close to the browser as possible, e.g. on a webserver rather than in the database.

Preparation – Last minute checks

  1. Ask “what could possibly go wrong?”
  2. Ask what the impact of such failures would be.
  3. Ask how you would know if such a failure was about to occur or in progress.
  4. Ask what could be done to mitigate this!

On the day

  1. Make a list of non-essential functionality that could be quickly switched off to boost performance if the site is struggling, e.g. predictive site search, live chat, etc.
  2. Empower team members to be able to deal with problems quickly without needing to wade through red tape.
  3. Make sure monitoring is in place and running (real user monitoring, business metrics, social media etc.).
  4. Know who you can contact in a pinch within the business and with third parties – have a list of numbers and emails at the ready.
  5. Have an insurance policy in place in case all else fails.

What if all else does fail?

Many top retailers suffered very public failures last Black Friday, with sites crashing under much higher demand than anticipated. Fortunately we have developed TrafficDefender, an insurance policy for if websites do reach bursting point come Black Friday.

TrafficDefender removes the risk of complete website outages if capacity can’t keep up with demand, and gives a better experience to any overflow of visitors than a generic error message by placing excess visitors into an orderly queue.

Even if you have followed our checklist from top to bottom, do you have an insurance policy for if all else fails?

Ian is the Head of Performance at Intechnica

Performance Testing and APM part 3 – AppDynamics

The current topic of the Intechnica Performance Podcast is Performance Testing and APM (Application Performance Management), with a focus on aligning APM tools with performance testing.

In each episode, Intechnica Head of Performance Ian Molyneaux (author of “The Art of Application Performance Testing”) has been detailing a specific APM tool and its individual capabilities and idiosyncrasies around integration with performance testing. In part 3 we’re focusing on AppDynamics.

Download/stream link

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast each week!

Find out about Intechnica’s expertise in Performance Testing and Application Performance Management.

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Join us at #VelocityConf!

For the third year running, Intechnica are sponsoring Velocity Conference in Europe – this year taking place in Amsterdam.

Velocity is the premier Web Performance and Operation conference, with a schedule packed with the cutting edge of web performance topics and discussions.

If you are attending, be sure to drop by stand 426 on Thursday or Friday, where you can talk to us about:

  • Managed Performance Testing – Delivering a more a consistent, expertly managed performance test resource
  • APM Managed Service – Get the most value and benefit possible from an investment in Application Performance Management tools
  • TrafficDefender – Guarantee website uptime and performance at peak times such as Black Friday sales with our traffic management and visitor queuing solution

Not got your pass yet?

Use our discount code Intechnica25 for 25% off your pass!

Click here to register

Preparing for Peaks at AO.com

In one of the sessions taking place during Velocity, Adam Warne (Director of IT Services at AO.com) will talk about how the UK’s largest online white goods retailer prepares for peaks in traffic by using information to build the right architecture.

This talk is taking place on Thursday 29th October at 17:05 in room G109.

Not attending Velocity? Join a live webinar

Adam will also be presenting his talk in a live webinar on Thursday 5th November, 6pm GMT.

Click here to register

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Webinar: Preparing for peaks at AO.com

O’Reilly are hosting an exclusive webinar with AO.com on (remember remember) 5th November, which is sponsored by TrafficDefender.

As with every online retailer, Black Friday has posed many challenges to AO.com. Building a platform to serve an unknown number of customers can be an onerous and expensive task. But what if you have limited time or budget? Using the right tools and techniques to produce and understand data can lead to more predictable results whilst delivering the best solution possible for your customers.

Click here to register for this free O’Reilly webinar

Thursday 5th November
6pm GMT | 1pm ET | 10am PT

Key takeaways from this webcast include:

  • The key principles of platforms and how these relate to your overall business goals
  • The relationship monitoring & analytics of customer experience should have with infrastructure planning
  • The must-know checklist of preparing your technology for peak web traffic

About Adam Warne, Director of IT Services — ao.com

Adam Warne, AO.comAO.com is the UK’s largest online white good retailer, supplying more than 4.5m customers, and household names such as B&Q, Boots and House of Fraser. Adam Warne has been with AO.com for 8 years and has been part of its growth into the successful international retailer it is today. Adam’s previous experience includes delivering IT services at EDS and Skipton Building Society.

Performance Testing and APM part 2 – New Relic

Welcome once again to the Intechnica Performance Podcast series!

Our current topic is Performance Testing and APM (Application Performance Management), with a focus on aligning APM tools with performance testing.

In each episode, Intechnica Head of Performance Ian Molyneaux (author of “The Art of Application Performance Testing”) goes into some detail around a specific APM tool and its individual capabilities and idiosyncrasies around integration with performance testing. In part 2 we’re focusing on New Relic.

Download/stream link

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast each week!

Find out about Intechnica’s expertise in Performance Testing and Application Performance Management.

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TrafficDefender helps Poundworld Plus website stay online during BBC One programme

This article was originally posted on our brand new TrafficDefender website over at http://www.traffic-defender.co.ukclick to read the original now.

For the past eight weeks, the BBC One series “Pound Shop Wars” has followed the plight of the pound shop industry. In last night’s episode, “Battles in Cyberspace”, the programme focused on the ecommerce websites operated by the major pound shops, including poundworldplus.co.uk and poundworld.com.

Predictably this caused a huge increase in awareness and interest in the websites mentioned on the programme, driving massive amounts of traffic to each. This was enough to cause problems for the servers at the Poundshop, not giving the best impression to would-be visitors.

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Thankfully for Poundworld Plus, they had prepared for the TV exposure by implementing TrafficDefender in front of their website.

This meant that the site was able to allow as many visitors in as its servers could comfortably cope with, while placing excess new visitors into an orderly queue. So instead of a screen like the above displayed by the rival Poundshop, Poundworld Plus visitors either got straight through to the site or saw a screen like this (courtesy of Twitter user @Citybird2012):

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This was a much better result for Poundworld Plus because it meant that they could control the amount of traffic hitting their servers at any given time, so as not to overwhelm them and bring the site down for existing visitors. They could even change the threshold at which the site began to queue visitors on-the-fly if they felt the site was coping better or worse than expected.

As for the visitors themselves, as you can see they had a much clearer idea of what was happening thanks to the custom branded queue page, rather than a garbled error page.

With Black Friday shaping up to be bigger than ever this year, how many retailers are prepared for the unpredictable amount of traffic heading for their websites? Find out more about getting TrafficDefender in time now.

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Performance Testing and APM Week 1 – Dynatrace

Welcome once again to the Intechnica Performance Podcast series!

We have a new topic starting this month: Performance Testing and APM (Application Performance Management). You probably do performance testing, and you might have an APM tool you’re using for monitoring or troubleshooting. But are you aligning the two? This series aims to demonstrate some of the whys and hows.

Each week, Intechnica Head of Performance Ian Molyneaux (author of “The Art of Application Performance Testing”) will go into some detail around a specific APM tool and its individual capabilities and idiosyncrasies around integration with performance testing. In week 1 we’re focusing on Dynatrace.

Download/stream link

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast each week!

Find out about Intechnica’s expertise in Performance Testing and Application Performance Management.