As Black Friday approaches, it would be a good idea to remind ourselves of the fragility of websites when traffic spikes.
This was evident lately when the Civil Aviation Authority’s special website struggled to cope when 60,000 holidaymakers tried to submit refund forms in the wake of Thomas Cook’s demise.
Customers complained they had tried to submit the claim form several times, but kept receiving error messages, such as: “an unhandled fault occurred while processing this flow. Please contact your administrator". When customers called the helpline, they were told to keep trying and that multiple attempts would not affect their claim.
The CAA should have known how much traffic would be visiting this website, but they did not prepare for it properly. Websites that are likely to experience spikes in traffic need expert attention.
Websites for events like Glastonbury or retail sites offering Black Friday deals need to be robust enough to ensure their customers can access them when required. For something like Glastonbury, we are looking at a half-hour period, while Black Friday is usually a day of heightened activity.
We have worked with customers who have needed a resilient website hosting solution to cope with spikes in traffic. One customer was anticipating a rush following an advertising campaign during the broadcast of the then very popular The X Factor and Coronation Street. Another client needed to cope with a more sustained level of increased traffic as they were a seasonal business.
How can website resilience be achieved?
Businesses need a high availability web hosting solution with scalable internet connectivity. Resilience is achieved by duplicating servers and their support infrastructure, including firewalls and switches, so if one element fails, activity can automatically switch to its alternative path.
Businesses should also consider using virtualisation so they can make changes to a duplicate version of their website without affecting the live format. By using this snapshotting process, businesses can revert to the original version of the website without the end user experiencing any downtime.
Internet bandwidth is critical for a resilient website. We have supplied clients with a flexible service whereby they pay for the limited bandwidth they need for most of the year and then facilitate bursting to a much higher bandwidth when required. This meant the client did not need to pay for the higher bandwidth charge all year round.
We provide these high availability website hosting solutions in our data centre, so we know the web servers are located in the ideal environmental conditions with no single point of failure.
To avoid website crashes and errors that have been experienced by other high-profile businesses and organisations, retail businesses preparing for Black Friday on November 29th should make sure their websites are robust enough to withstand the extra traffic. Aside from the bad PR, they risk losing precious sales too.
Fell free to contact me and find out more about our hosting options available to your business. I will be happy to provide you with a no-obligation quote.