Many businesses have busy and slow seasons, with certain seasons attracting customers to their stores and websites. Whether it’s the holiday season or Independence Day, businesses must prepare well in advance for the sudden surge of customers if they’re to avoid a website crash.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, this means hiring seasonal workers and making sure your point of sale system can handle the load. Online retailers invest that pre-rush time in checking to make sure their websites can handle a large number of customers at once.
When customers have one day that is busier than all others, the challenge is even greater. With tens of thousands of visitors hitting a site at once, a Web host must be able to gracefully scale to meet the demand.
As Sally McKenney of Sally’s Baking Addiction found out the day before Thanksgiving, without advance preparation, a site crash can happen in the middle of that busy day, leading to lost revenue and possible reputation damage. Below are a few things you can do to avoid a website crash and make sure your customers can get the online service they need on the busiest day of the year.
How to Avoid a Website Crash
Test Your Site
At one time, website scalability was a mystery, with businesses only learning the hard way that their sites couldn’t handle a large amount of traffic at once. Today’s cloud-testing tools let businesses simulate multiple connections to their website at once. There are also free app-testing tools for businesses that sell products through an app. Run tests each year in advance of your busy day to make sure your website host is still providing the load handling you received in previous years.
Use a Content Delivery Network
For businesses with customers spread out over a large geographic area, a content delivery network (CDN) may be the best option. A CDN provider sets up servers in multiple locations and directs traffic to the closest server. This distributes the load in a way that keeps each server from being overloaded, even during the most extreme situations. If one server goes down, other servers can compensate for that, with customers experiencing a seamless transition.
Keep Your Pages Light
On a day when traffic is surging, even the slightest disruption can make a big difference. One way to cut down on site crashes is by simplifying your design. Each page element can slow down your page load times, so it’s important to quickly identify any items that might put strain on already-overtaxed servers. Google’s Make the Web Faster tool will examine your page and provide suggestions that will help you speed up the load time for each of your pages. Sometimes an item as simple as an image or a video ad could lead your page to be inaccessible to a large percentage of your customers on the busiest day of the year.
For businesses that rely on their websites for sales, a site crash can be devastating. By taking measures to test and prepare your site, you’ll avoid the reputation damage and loss of income that can come from a crash during a crucial time.
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It is important to just keep the pages light in those moments. Also, have someone on standby who is constantly looking at your website to see if it is up.
Thanks for the advice. It is definitely useful to test your site before the big day for it will make sure that your website is working in top shape and will prevent you from losing customers.
Also, make sure that your server can handle the sudden influx in traffic. Always have an estimate on how the traffic will come and check if your bandwidth can handle it.
Performance testing ahead of a major event is absolutely vital so you know how much traffic it would take to bring the site down or cause it to slow down significantly. But if you absolutely need to keep the website from going down, many top retailers have started adopting the use of online queues to manage any overflow of traffic. These ensure that the maximum number of visitors a site can handle are able to stay on the site by placing any excess of traffic into an ordered queue.
Full disclosure, I work for a company that has a website queueing system called TrafficDefender. We currently have a free trial available, so it could be worth a look – right now we are protecting the uptime of sites like AO.com, Hobbs London, Ted Baker and even the Scouts Association (be prepared!).