It Is 3 Weeks to Cyber Monday – Is Your Site Prepared?

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November 22, 2012 – that is the date for Thanksgiving in the United States.  That means Monday November 26 is Cyber Monday.  Cyber Monday, if you haven’t already heard, is the day when the online Christmas shopping season is considered to “officially” start.

So we thought we’d ask the question – is your site ready for the potential deluge of traffic on this day?

Why is Cyber Monday important?

There is a simple one-word answer for this: Money.  Cyber Monday 2011 was the single busiest online spending day of the year.   Websites raked in an impressive $1 ¼ billion dollars on that single day in 2011.

The 2011 Cyber Monday was the second consecutive Cyber Monday with the single largest one day spending total online.  And we expect the 2012 Cyber Monday to follow suit.  In fact we expect spending on that day to exceed last year’s record $1.25 billion spent.

So that leads us to then re-ask the question – is your site ready?  Is it ready for the potential heavy traffic such days can bring?  And if not, do you have a recovery plan?

What is it worth to you if your website goes down on the busiest online shopping day of the year?  It may not even be your traffic that brings down your website, but an increase in traffic to another site hosted on the same server as your own.

How to know if your site can handle the traffic

There are a few things you can do to get prepared for an increase in traffic on this day.  First, review your site’s hosting.  Did you know you can check and see how many other sites are hosted on the server hosting your site?

There are many sites out there to help with this.  One of my favorites actually provides a lot of information about not only your site, but also the server hosting it.

Simply go to this site:  http://whois.domaintools.com/ and put your website name in the box, then hit the “lookup” button.

On the first screen of results you will see an area called “reverse IP lookup” that shows how many other sites share the same IP address as your site.  This may not indicate how many sites are physically hosted on the same server as yours but it gives you an idea of what you are up against.

For example, if there are over 1000 sites sharing your IP, even if only 10% are hosting on the same server as your own that means there are at least 100 other sites which could bring down your site if they get a sudden rush of traffic.

I have seen many cases when a misconfigured database on another website so overloaded the server’s resources that NO site hosted on that server was immune.  All sites hosted on that server were dead slow, simply because of the misconfiguration of 1 site.  In some cases there were as few as 2 or 3 sites hosted on that single server.

Consideration #2 – Site Speed

Another thing which could affect your site is your own speed.  Online users are very picky.  If a site doesn’t load in a few seconds many people might leave your site and never come back.  But there are a few ways you can test your site speed.

Google Page Speed Insights is a free tool provided by Google which allows you to not only test your site’s load time, but it also provides Insights (as the name suggests) into way to improve your site’s speed.

WebPageTest is another great web page speed testing tool that also provides you with a breakdown of your site’s load speed showing you where it’s slower.  This is one thing I like about this tool over the Google tool is that it shows you where the slowdowns occur.  You can then determine what, if anything, you can do to help speed it up.

Slow Site, Now What?

If you have run these tests, made changes to your site to improve it, and still have issues it may be time to look at other options for serving your content.

The first thing you might be thinking is that the quickest way to speed things up is to change hosting.  But you could be wrong – Perhaps it’s not hosting that is the issue.  There is an alternative that requires no change to your site.  All it requires is for you to change your DNS servers.

There is a company called CloudFlare which I have been using on this website for some time now.  In fact, we recently went back to CloudFlare when we realized we were having some of the same issues described in this article.

CloudFlare is a service which helps speed up  your website by acting as a CDN (Content Delivery Network) as well as an anti-spam service.  Setup takes less than 5 minutes and within a few hours you should see improvements in your site’s speed.

When we recently set up CloudFlare we ran a test – before and after CloudFlare.

This site, before CloudFlare, could take up to 10 seconds to load the home page.  In some rare instances it was as long as 20 seconds.  There was an issue on our server we couldn’t identify so we set up the CloudFlare service.

Within 24 hours we noticed a significant improvement in site speed.  Pages now load in 3 seconds or less.  And best of all, it’s free!

So if you are concerned with the upcoming Cyber Monday shopping day, now is the time to review your site for potential problems and deal with them now rather than finding out too late that there are issues.

If you would like to know more about the information supplied here, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

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