This year, and more than even before, Black Friday will defy the technical limits of e-commerce websites. In previous years, Black Friday has propelled an increase of online stores traffic to up to four times higher than on regular days.
The paradox is that the more popular your online store or website becomes, the more likely it is to slow down or, worse, stop working altogether, ruining the user experience. It seems that websites always crash at the worst possible moment.
And why is that? Because nobody knows what happens to their website performance when the number of simultaneous users exceeds the normal levels.
Black Friday is an excellent opportunity for your online store to stand out from the competition with a fast-loading and smooth-running experience.
There is a lot of research about the impact of page load speed on e-commerce revenue and conversion rates. Accelerating the average page load time by just 0.1 seconds has increased e-commerce revenue by 1%. And a page-load should generally never take more than 3 seconds, or the average user will give up and head to the next link in Google.
Here are five tips to help ensure your online store works during traffic peaks:
- Check with your hosting provider if you can multiply your hosting resources like CPU and RAM for Black Friday. Guaranteeing that your website remains up and running ensures that all the purchases are processed. It is expected that the profit resulting from this stability will cover the investment in extra infrastructure.
- Check with your e-commerce software vendor if the code could be improved to withstand increased traffic. If you can distribute the load to multiple servers or containers and scale horizontally (splitting traffic to multiple servers/containers), it can already solve a large part of the problem. In addition, using a server-side cache or a CDN service can significantly improve the online store's performance.
- Keep in mind that your website speed is also affected by the 3rd party assets and tools you are using. You may have followed steps 1 and 2, but some external integration may still deteriorate the performance.
- Avoid updating product descriptions or prices during Black Friday. Your online store may take advantage of the cache mentioned in step 2, which will be reset if changes are applied. When a cache is reset during a visitor peak, the server capacity reserved for your online store may be no longer sufficient.
- You can not manage something you’re not measuring. Load test your website to find out how many users can be handled simultaneously. Compare the load test results with the ones from last year's Black Friday to determine if you are under the 3 seconds recommended.. It is also a good idea to perform a load test prior to steps 1 and 2 to compare the before and after results. A load test will also help you find out what might slow down your online store, giving you enough time to further fine tune your website before Black Friday.
Adapting your online store to accept the new incoming traffic isn’t an easy task, but most of the uncertainties can be managed by a Cloud Solution Provider, like Scaleway. Scaleway is a European Leader in Public Cloud and private infrastructures.Thanks to the managed services they provide, e-commerce of all sizes can adapt to the sudden surges of traffic caused by new clients brought by Black Friday, a product launch, multiple marketing pushes, or other seasonal events, for example. In fact, “Cloud computing” is closely linked to the e-commerce industry itself, as the need to plan for enormous infrastructure capacities progressively grows. Today, this agility and flexibility can be obtained by any online store that prepares well enough!
With Supervisor.com, you will discover single points of failure in your architecture by simulating realistic traffic, and thanks to Scaleway, you will be equipped with the correct services to adapt your resources, services, and software. We see multiple paths for it:
- To improve our latency, in addition to a CDN, it can be used in tandem with: Scaleway DNS and Load Balancers. Our incoming load will be redirected to the region closest to the visitors, and then on multiple front-end servers that were previously deployed in multiple zones.
- Another path would be to increase our raw power capacity. Scaleway offers multiple sizes of instances, dedicated servers, and managed databases that can be upgraded in just one click.
- For micro-services, we need to plan for multiple network-related failures. Even if the network bandwidth is sufficient, the servers receiving the traffic might be overwhelmed and will drop API requests. To avoid this issue, we recommend interfacing application tiers with Messaging Queue that will be built to store and redistribute the requests. Making sure no customers wait indefinitely for their order to be processed!
- Once our different software tiers have been decoupled from one another, we can consider individual and localized scaling. Based on our usage monitoring, we will want to increase our number of instances or containers by using a Configuration Management tool, or a Container Orchestration technology. Terraform, Ansible or Kubernetes would be a great answer and luckily: Scaleway is compatible with the firsts, and offers the former with its Kapsule.
- A complete and auto-scaling solution is ideal, but for many use-cases, we can use a Quick Win by knowing in advance “when” the peak season is. We could scale our infrastructure based on the hours of the day or the Black Friday week using a Serverless script that will increase the number of instances and/or their size and decrease when it's not needed anymore.
- Our websites are always exposed to potential DDoS attacks, but there is no worse timing than being attacked by one during our most crucial moments of the year. To protect against an attack, we want to use the dedicated anti-DDoS hardware located on the network backbone of our Cloud Solution Providers.
- Lastly, we should look for cost optimizations. One of the advantages of moving to Scaleway Public Cloud is its hourly flexibility and price competitiveness. Making it possible to keep your expenses under control.
- Lauri Kasti (CEO, Founder Supervisor.com) is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience hosting busy e-commerce sites. He founded Supervisor.com so everyone would know how fast their website is on Black Friday.
- Gautier Crepin (Solution Architect Manager, Scaleway.com) is an experienced Cloud Architect, helping enterprises to adapt and migrate on Cloud services.