9 Things To Check Before a Big Traffic Event on Your Ecommerce Site (Part II)

Last week we took a look at the first 5 things to do before a big event hits your website. Items such as using a CDN, static content, lots of RAM, and using the right software all play a major role in having a successful outcome.

Today we’ll finish the list with the last four things to consider…

6. Put the entire splash page on the CDN

Here’s a secret we learned that can make or break a large TV spot – If the main way viewers get to your site is from a link on the TV show’s website, create a static landing page, and put the entire page and *all* of its contents on the CDN.

Then give the TV show the URL to the CDN page directly.

Wala!

Your main page is ready to handle tens of thousands of visitors at once without crashing. You can even take this a step further and put entire static pages on this special CDN URL, to further off-load traffic and load. This frees up resources for your ecommerce application to take in tons of orders quickly without issue.

7. Set limits low to start with

Even if you think you have things tweaked to handle 10,000 visitors at once, there’s bound to be an unforeseen issue you failed to account for, that will cause a problem. We’ve found that it’s easier to set webserver limits on the conservative side (i.e. the maximum number of processes that can run simultaneously), and then adjust them upward as the situation permits.

This avoids the entire server or software crashing right out of the gate, and the scramble to get back up and running quickly.

Geek tip: If you’re running the Apache webserver, make sure you’ve recompiled it to increase the default “MaxClients” setting from 256 up to something like 2048, and then set the MaxClients parameter in the config file to a conservative value like 512 or 768 initially.

8. Monitor in real-time

This is vital to insure you’re able to react quickly (and hopefully proactively instead of reactively) to conditions that develop when the traffic skyrockets. Once a website is mentioned on national TV, it’s only a few seconds before thousands of visitors hit the site all at the same time.

Don’t be caught off-guard, not ready to monitor all the parameters. You (or your web host) should have a screen or screens dedicated to real-time information on the CPU load, memory used, number of webserver processes running, system-wide error messages, etc… This way you can spot a trend before it turns into a major problem.

This type of monitoring has helped us numerous times when adjusting settings and software to cope with a higher load than expected, or visitors hitting a page that was not expected. We’ve been able to detect and adjust quickly due to this type of set up.

9. The most important thing to check…

Last, but certainly not least, is the mundane and not fun process of testing everything ***BEFORE*** the event. You want to work out the kinks and spot the problem areas before crunch time.

What are you looking for?

  • Security / SSL errors and warnings during checkout
  • Finding and eliminating dynamic content that is not needed
  • Browsing through the web error log looking for missing files, PHP errors, etc… that could be an issue
  • Double checking the link/URL from the TV show’s website is accurate and links to what you want
  • All static content that could be on the CDN is actually being called from the CDN

Taking the time to plan everything out, test beforehand, and having a web host that understands what’s involved in a high traffic event can be the difference between 7,000 orders in a few short hours (one of our ecommerce clients did this 2 weeks ago), and having your website down for the majority of the time resulting in a substantial loss.

If you expect a good volume of orders, don’t try to cut corners on price or options that will help you thrive during the segment.

And most importantly, make sure your web host is prepared for and capable of helping you achieve your goal with a high traffic event such as being on TV or a national website. If they’re not, talk to us.  :)

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