Virgin Money Giving experienced a website crash during the London Marathon, and that crash was both embarrassing and costly. In the short term, the crash prevented people from providing support to the marathon participants promptly. In the long term, Virgin has taken a hit in brand reputation that may take a while to recover from.
Of course, Virgin is not the only organisation to fall victim to website crashes or slowdown. During Black Friday last year, many large online retailers suffered the same fate. Even a degradation in site loading time can have detrimental effects as serious as a website crash. Customers will abandon a site that is slow to load and take their business elsewhere, and search engines will downgrade the ranking of sites that have a track record of frequent crashes or slow loading time.
You need to be proactive to keep your site up and running. Here are four steps that you should take:
1. Plan for the worst-case scenario
Most businesses know when they will experience peak traffic based on previous experience. If you are on online retailer, you know what volume you experienced on previous peak days such as Black Friday, and this should be your starting point for planning for how much traffic your site should be capable of handling to allow for a major spike in traffic.
2. Identify potential bottlenecks
One you determine the peak traffic flow that you wish to accommodate, identify any bottlenecks on your website that might prevent you from handling it. Then, load test each to see if any of them fail, and make appropriate changes to eliminate those bottlenecks. Be sure to do this well in advance of when you expect your peak traffic to hit.
3. Conduct a final check
After evaluating the individual potential bottlenecks, conduct a complete load and stress test on your site and apps using the maximum anticipated amount of traffic plus an additional amount of traffic to give you a margin of safety. A complete professional load test will simulate peak traffic amounts easily and quickly and will show you exactly what failed if your site does not pass the test. Once your site passes the final check, you can be confident that your site is ready.
4. Have a backup plan
Sometimes, circumstances beyond your control can thwart even the most comprehensive plan, and your site will still crash. Therefore, it’s best to have a plan to help mitigate the damage if your site does go down. Consider using a website monitoring service so that you will know promptly if your site does crash. Prepare a communications plan so that you can inform your visitors and customers why your site went down, what steps you are taking to get the site back online, and how long you expect it will take for you to resume normal operations.
When your website goes down, it’s the equivalent of a brick-and-mortar store locking its front door. Taking steps to keep your website up and running during peak traffic flows is crucial in maintaining your reputation and keeping your customers from going elsewhere.