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Crush the Rush - Maximizing Holiday Performance

The following is a guest post from Senior Solutions Engineer Eric Mingorance


* This is the third blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series

Christmas started in July this year. Not just because "Drugstores ‛R Us" and the "ShopMarts" of the world are ever expanding the holiday window in hopes of more consumer revenue, but because Online Marketing, IT, eCommerce and Network departments in the Internet-retail-world started preparing for the traffic peaks and online overload.

Estimating load, capacity, and throughput, has become the holiday gamble that determines the trifecta payout from the lost investment wager. The thinking is "If you build it (and promote it) they will come!" However we all know that greater traffic brings greater challenges. 

Those higher and longer traffic peaks tax your Web site infrastructure and stability. There's also a need for greater order velocity and the potential for back-end system overload. Unfortunately this degradation can affect end-user performance.

To top it off, all the extra marketing & advertising dollars spent simply means that more eyes are upon the tech team internally and externally. There's not only an expectation to perform, but higher scrutiny over the ROI of the large investments made...and of course there's a high opportunity cost of poor shopping experience.

All this holiday traffic is also affecting your third party vendors and SaaS providers, which can result in issues affecting your site performance and experience. Brand degradation, bad press, loss of loyalty all go beyond just the loss of revenue.

In our Services webinar, we covered some of the best practices for preparing for the online holiday season commerce conundrum.

We shared our experience from working with 96 of the top 100 online retailers - what we've learned over the years and from our customers, from load testing to shoring up security.

  • What systems should you baseline and monitor? 
  • Where can you get data and clues about the weakest link in your infrastructure? 
  • How should you focus resources where they'll be in most demand? 
  • What should you prepare for, who will execute the plan, and where will it be documented?

We also shared insights that should be valuable with or without the use of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) including managing search engine or channel bots as well as throttling traffic under load.

Last year we saw over 700 attacks on our customers, and the industry attacked the most was Commerce - even more than what we saw in the financial sector and 7 of the top 10 world banks use Akamai.

While another Crush the Rush webinar specifically covers Defending against a DDoS Attacks we still touched upon security planning and strategy from a high level for the holiday season. 

  • Is your IDS, WAF or Firewall a bottle neck for good traffic as well as bad? 
  • Who has the authority to turn on on/off security protection depending on if it's helping or hurting? 
  • Is that person working on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Are they even reachable?

We discussed benchmarking performance metrics, setting up alerts, and monitoring, along with having an incidence response plan. 

We also talked about how to prepare for downtime, from hot-hot datacenters to DR and a failover plans. How to manage traffic and plan for back up branded experience in the cloud. We talked about failover actions to 4xx and 5xx response codes as well as shifting anonymous traffic to a branded waiting experience under heavy load while end-users with items in their cart can use the limited resources to check out.

Click here to watch the 45-minute video-on-demand and please feel free to email us with questions or comments. We'll respond even in to the holidays - but time is ticking to get proactive as holiday code freezes are just around the corner.

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