Ensuring Your IT Infrastructure Holds Up during Black Friday

    August 21, 2015

    By Jeff Schultz

    Let’s take a look at how to fully capitalize on these yearly sales spikes, rather than letting them tank your servers.

    While the overall surge in online shopping has made consumer trends a bit more unpredictable than they once were, there are still landmark days throughout the year when we can expect sales to skyrocket. Certainly the most reliable of these is the almighty Black Friday, an unabashed shopping blowout that immediately follows Thanksgiving Day.

    On Black Friday last year, overall e-commerce was reported to have risen by 32%, with financial gains coming in at around $1.5 billion, according to CNBC. Almost all retailers rely on such a boon to make back money in areas that sag over the course of the year — Black Friday is received by many companies like a sales storm that comes after a long drought.

    But for IT departments at various companies, these huge numbers evoke something else besides excitement. Amidst massive spikes in user activity, many websites can’t hold up to their usual standard, and some crash completely.

    This past year, Best Buy's website went down for a few critical hours of Black Friday, costing them a humongous share of potential revenue and sending frustrated online shoppers elsewhere, as TechCrunch reports. As your company looks to get the most out of this annual frenzy, I’m here to offer some advice on how to avoid a complete IT meltdown.

    Staying in the Game

    The key to keeping your online business going is understanding the concept of a utilization rate, as ReadyRatios observes. This metric keeps track of whether or not your website’s probable output levels are being used or matched at the average rate. They also track the rate at which they could potentially rise, and the projected cost increase that would accompany such an upward trajectory.

    In relation to utilization rate, it’s important that your IT department track the daily peaks in traffic that your website experiences. The average uptick on Black Friday comes in at around 25%, which should dwarf any other surges that occur throughout the year. Your company must therefore ensure that you have enough capacity to experience such a tremendous surge in traffic — if you’re running into hiccups at any other point in the calendar year, you’ll definitely need to add to your infrastructure in advance.

    By collecting detailed performance data, your IT department can run through models that will simulate spikes along the lines of what might happen on Black Friday. These models will allow you to measure your numbers directly against your peak performance, making it easier to allot your use of servers and other resources for the actual holiday. Even simulating these upticks will increase the cloud elasticity of your site, which will also better prepare you for the big day, according to Evolve IP.

    A Helping Hand

    Of course, to fully prepare for the Armageddon-like numbers of Black Friday, you’ll need a strong and well-adapted IT department on hand. Even if your staff has an expert handle on any of the above strategies, it can still be useful to ask for some outside help.

    Enlisting some of the sharp industry veterans at TeamQuest will help your company proceed confidently into this year’s holiday season. As experts in data analytics and capacity management, we’ll be able to help you meet or exceed the needs of your customers in times of high demand. Since spikes in user activity can often be unpredictable, getting a second opinion on what to expect is crucial. With the additional help of a handful of experts, your team will be able to move forward with confidence.

    (Main image credit: David Haines/flickr)

    Category: capacity-planning