The biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are nearly upon us—again. If you’re on the development, operations, DevOps, or marketing team of a large e-commerce website, your busiest season is coming fast. Thanksgiving signals the start of long days, big sales, massive website traffic, and plenty of unexpected threats to your website’s uptime and performance.
We realize it is 2020, and what can go wrong will, but as the late, great author Douglas Adams once said: “Don’t Panic!”
To help you maximize your e-commerce website uptime and performance this holiday season, we have assembled the following guide. Our goal is to help you prepare for the increase in threats to your online sales, conversions, and reputation in the event of website downtime, performance hits, and failing transaction woes.
Make a disaster recovery plan
This preparation tip is the first on our list because it is one of the most crucial. No matter how much hard work and money you channel towards maintaining your website’s uptime and performance, the unexpected always happens.
By preparing an effective disaster recovery plan, you can mitigate the risk of a website downtime disaster knowing whom to contact, and what to do to minimize the potential recovery time.
Make friends in high places and contact your data center
When it comes to preparing your e-commerce website for heavy traffic events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is good to call your data center ahead of time.
The last thing you need is to have your data center perform maintenance during a critical time or experience downtime because they haven’t prepared their systems for the massive swarms of traffic. So call them up, and build a healthy working relationship. Make a trusted point of contact in case the proverbial stuff hits the fan.
Make backups, and make backups of backups
Keeping your data in one central location without redundant backup options is a disaster waiting to happen. A power surge, heavy traffic, inclement weather, or a DDoS is all it takes to take out your e-commerce website.
By keeping backups of your critical website files and databases and setting up multiple web servers in locations closest to your target market, you can help yourself avoid a worst-case scenario.
Test your systems early and often
Get to know how much stress your website can take by running through multiple tests before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You’ll gain great insight into where your e-commerce website may fail or perform less than admirably. With this insight, you are better able to address potential issues before they happen.
It is also a good idea to refrain from pushing untested updates to your website during periods of high traffic if possible.
Uptrends Website Monitoring watches over your e-commerce website 24/7, alerting you at the first sign of trouble. Website Monitoring watches for outages and tracks uptime, while Website Performance Monitoring alerts you to sudden drops in performance. You can even verify transactions and API interactions with Web Application Monitoring and Multi-Step API Monitoring.
Cache it, compress it, remove it
Less is more! Every byte comes with a performance cost on your servers. Enabling caching, utilizing compression tools such as gzip, and purging files of unneeded code and developer comments reduces the number and size of requests (important for mobile performance). You’ll have happy servers and thankful customers!
Analyze your third-party scripts
A lot of websites and e-commerce websites rely on third-party scripts and content to track analytics, embed social media tools, and other functions. These third-party elements require extra calls to external servers, which may slow down your webpage’s performance.
We recommend that you analyze your third-party script’s performance and make sure they are fully optimized and worth using. Don’t forget; these script providers might also be experiencing heavy traffic and other performance altering events caused by Black Friday and Cyber Monday that could affect you!
Invest in a CDN
A CDN, or content delivery network, works best in tandem with enabling caching of images and other static media. A CDN essentially hosts your content on external servers (usually multiple servers that split the load), easing the strain on the primary servers driving your e-commerce website.
Double-check your DNS, SSL certificates
Not many people think about their DNS records and SSL certificates regularly, let alone big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
If your DNS suffers from downtime or an error, your users can’t access your website or services that run from your website. If your SSL certificate expires or, worse, gets hijacked, your visitors’ browsers will block and warn them that the page is not secure.
Both instances could cause you to lose consumer trust and confidence and result in lost sales. We suggest checking, double-checking, and triple-checking your DNS and SSL certificates to ensure maximum uptime.
Keep to your performance budget
Use Uptrends’ free Website Speed Test tool to test your most highly-trafficked pages. You’ll get a breakdown of your page’s contents by type, size, quantity, and percentages, prioritized tips on how to optimize the page. You can quickly see if your page is compliant with your performance budget.
Use content checks
Uptime is important, but did you know a site visitor can receive a partially-loaded or a completely different page? These conditions don’t trigger an alert. Without content checks, you can be confident that your site delivers the correct content in a timely fashion. Content checks are easy to set up, and they come free with Uptrends monitoring.
(All good things go to 11) Invest in a tool that makes your job and life easier
As you can see, preparing your e-Commerce website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a pretty time-intensive job. But that doesn’t mean that you should be unable to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, spend time with family, and get some precious sleep.
By investing in a comprehensive external monitoring service, you can alleviate some of the pressure of operating an e-commerce website during such a big event.
Uptrends monitors your website 24/7 using a network of over 220 global checkpoints designed to help you accurately determine where in the world your website is experiencing issues. At the first sign of a problem, Uptrends alerts you via SMS, email, push notification (with Uptrends’ free mobile apps), or phone/voice notifications. Uptrends also supports many third-party integrations, such as MS Teams, Slack, PagerDuty, VictorOps, StatusHub, Zapier, Opsgenie, ServiceNow for alert notifications. With Uptrends, you can stay on top of your e-commerce site’s availability, performance, and function throughout the holidays and the rest of the year.