Webshops need to prepare well for peak load during festive season

Webshop owners frequently underestimate the importance of hosting

The approaching holiday season is a goldmine for most webshops. According to a survey carried out by Blauw Research on behalf of Thuiswinkel.org, online retailers saw their revenues increase by an average of 40 per cent between 1st November and Boxing Day last year. ¡°It is extremely important, at this time of year in particular that websites and webshops are accessible 24/7 and that all transactions can be completed without a hitch. In order to safeguard optimal accessibility, webshops need to take measures - right from the start, - to ensure they can cope with the expected peak load, without any decrease in the load time for their web page or reduced availability of their website¡±, advises Emile Schouwstra, Business Development Manager with LeaseWeb, one of the largest hosting providers in Europe. ¡°As a hosting provider, we are constantly working to optimize the underlying IT infrastructure and guarantee uptime (the total time that the infrastructure is available). So even though we are not involved in the programming of the website itself, our knowledge means we can nonetheless provide some useful advice.¡±

¡°The technology behind the website is at least as important for the success of a webshop as marketing, presentation and the range of products or services being offered¡±, says Emile. ¡°That may appear to be a pretty obvious statement, but our experience is that many fledgling webshop owners underestimate the role of the underlying technology. It starts with the website itself; the webshop software and payment systems must function without any issues. This is only possible on a high-grade infrastructure. With customers becoming increasingly critical of webshops, good site performance is of vital importance. Customers quickly lose their patience if a site is slow to load or not available for hours on end. For business-critical sites the standard for uptime is 99.99%, and no more than 2 seconds for the load time of a webpage.¡±

Emile Schouwstra has a few important tips for the hosting and continuity of webshops, particularly during the holiday season: 

  1. Make sure the webshop can cope with additional traffic during peaks in the holiday season. Unforeseen peaks can prove costly if an agreement with a hosting provider is tailored to a fixed volume of data. Consider opting instead for a scalable environment that offers the scope for a rapid and flexible capacity upgrade. 
  2. Try to avoid working with a ¡®shared webhosting service¡¯, in which several webshops share the same facilities and infrastructure. This construction is additionally susceptible to peak loads. A dedicated infrastructure based on physical or cloud servers is the best choice. As a cloud solution is also stored in physical equipment, the choice of a good datacenter is likewise very important.
  3. Opt for a redundant infrastructure. This ensures that the site will remain available even if the servers or parts of the network malfunction or fail altogether. Another alternative is to use a twin datacenter solution, with the infrastructure being hosted in two separate datacenters. 
  4. Select a hosting provider with a high-quality network. It might sound good if a website is operational 99% of the time, but in practice this can mean that the site is down nearly four whole days a year. That can cost you missed revenue if it happens during the holiday season. In order to be assured of good performance, it is important that the selected hosting provider has a redundant network with excellent worldwide connectivity.
  5. Websites can be accessed from anywhere in the world, irrespective of time zones and time of day. If a problem does occur, at whatever moment, it needs to be resolved as quickly and accurately as possible. A hosting provider should, therefore, offer technical support 24/7. Additionally, it is important that the technical staff have the necessary know-how and regularly follow training programs in order to stay abreast of the latest developments.

In addition to these technology-related tips, the knowledge and experience of the hosting provider also play a role. ¡±Webshops must realize that as the business grows, so too does the need for hosting¡±, explains Schouwstra. ¡°An experienced hosting provider understands what is going on in the market. This allows it to give advice on which hosting solution is best for the webshop, now and into the future. Good hosting providers can also assist in testing the infrastructure. This will enable you to get the maximum out of your webshop during the holiday season.¡±