Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

5 reasons your website might slow down this holiday season (or anytime)

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that this year’s holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion. But here’s a wrinkle in the data that nobody really records: The companies that are making money are those that have fast, responsive websites. Companies with slow websites won’t be cashing in this season.

In fact, a Kissmetrics report on shopping cart abandonment found that 40 percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and a less forgiving group of almost 50 percent of users expect a website to load in two seconds or less. This is just the latest in a slew of similar studies that have been produced since the dawn of the e-commerce era that concludes website performance has a direct correlation to revenue performance.

So what can you do to ensure your web pages load in two seconds or less? Avoid the following faux pas. These are the most common problems we see that slow e-commerce sites down to the point of depressing sales.

1. Unforeseen traffic spikes. Heavy traffic is one of the most obvious reasons a website slows down, and most IT departments provision for this. But what if IT doesn’t know what’s coming, or when it’s coming? A surge of users to a site for a specific reason that IT doesn’t know about is a big risk that is easily preventable.

Historically, there’s always been delineation between IT and marketing. To help bridge this gap, many organizations have hired a chief web officer (CWO), who oversees an organization’s web presence, including all Internet and intranet traffic. The CWO helps communicate marketing’s website performance needs to the IT department in enough time for them to prepare for any big promotional events.

As soon as marketing suspects that the website might receive heavier-than-normal traffic, IT and marketing should start working together on a schedule that will help avoid any last minute problems. The most important thing marketing should be communicating is how many users they are expecting and how long they expect core page load to take.

While not all situations are the same, don’t despair if your website goes down during a time when you expected to rake in huge online sales. There are a few things you can do to remedy the situation. A common strategy is to throw more bandwidth or more CPU at the site to resolve the issues — but it’ll cost you. Before doing this, organizations should conduct a quick cost-benefit analysis.

A business with an overloaded site will need to decide if the revenue they will bring in from their site staying up will break even with or surpass the amount they put into extra bandwidth or CPU.

2. Inadequate infrastructure and code base measurement and testing. This problem can be avoided during the software development lifecycle by using tools that realistically measure your website’s performance from an external perspective, as well as having benchmarks associated with testing. During the software development lifecycle, the following factors affect your site’s speed:

  • Where the infrastructure is located geographically. If you’re selling to the Asian market but planning to host your infrastructure in Amazon East, you’re going to experience latency delays right off the bat.
  • Whether to cache or use CDNs. There is a subtle difference between the two, but front-end caching will help you avoid taxing your web servers, something that will cause your website to slow down. Front-end caching allows the cache version of the data to sit right in front of the web server and can be done relatively inexpensively with freeware technology. CDNs will come at a more significant cost, but will ensure localized delivery of content, saving you the latency that networks might provide.
  • Image size. If the graphics on your site are not optimized and efficient, the page will take longer to download. You need a way to analyze graphical development throughout your site, find those that are suboptimal, and redeploy them.
  • Whether you are using standalone or shared hosting environments. Standalone services allow for improved control and understanding of your environment and performance. A shared environment is like an apartment complex — you don’t know much about your neighbors or how their application/environment could be affecting your performance. While shared environments might be cheaper in the short-term, they could very well cost more over time.
  • Whether you are using virtualized instances or traditional servers. Depending on the application requirements, virtualized instances could be more convenient for deployment and backup purposes. However, they could cause performance issues. As a result, evaluate the overhead associated with your application on a virtualized instance versus a non-virtualized environment.
  • What type of database you chose. Whether it’s MySQL or Cassandra, SQL vs. NoSQL, we repeatedly see underutilized or misconfigured setups that cause performance significant issues. Additionally, we see organizations make interesting database solution selections that don’t take into consideration real benefits. Often a database is chosen based solely on the available in-house or outsourced expertise rather than the actual needs of the application.
  • What type of OS you chose. Costs and technical expertise are the two most common drivers behind operating system architecture and design. But the success of the OS ultimately comes down to optimization. Fine-tuning can be performed according to best practices; however, running a load test against your environment will allow you to truly optimize it.
  • If this site will be hosted in your own data center, co-located, or in a cloud hosting environment. Many organizations today begin by hosting their application in the cloud for rapid deployment, short term wins, and proof of concept to investors. As the application grows or the user base increases, organizations often will consider and migrate to their own data center or at least out of the cloud. There are appealing solutions today that allow for applications to continue to scale in an effort to mimic many popular cloud environments. Regardless of the environment, it’s imperative to learn your performance numbers and ensure that you meet or exceed performance metrics as you migrate.

3. Lack of maintenance. Conducting incremental performance tests with each new update or change to your environment might sound like a lot of extra work for your IT department. But, there are several subtle efficiencies you can perform that solve multiple problems. Spriting, for example, combines multiple images or CSS files.

You can continue to tweak your environment by optimizing your code with each update of the site. Implementing cache management will regulate which and how many objects to keep in memory. Regular patch management maintenance can prevent memory leaks within the code base that cause slowness.

Most organizations find that their maintenance works best on a regular schedule, and is performed whether the environment has changed or not. Microsoft, for example, has Patch Tuesday. Every Tuesday is dedicated to making sure their apps are updated with the latest and greatest patches, as well as reviewing the code base to figure out how to best optimize as environments change.

4. Inability to scale. A lot of organizations will develop sites that are not built to scale to the level they need, even though this is such a fundamental component of the software development lifecycle. We talk to a lot of web developers whose strategy is to simply buy more resources — hardware/software, bandwidth, CPU, memory, servers, etc. — than they need, and then assume that the extra will help them handle any heavy traffic that comes down the pike.

A more practical strategy (that will also save you money) is to take the time to develop an adaptive environment that you know can scale. Again, the sure-fire way to avoid this is to test and test often, so that you know every part of the stack can scale. And I mean to test everything — the front and back end web servers, databases, and application servers.

5. Quality measurements. Some IT teams are afraid to shine a light on their own work for fear of exposing errors they might have made during the development process. This is a common internal, political problem for most organizations.

The bottom line is that if the website is slow, revenue is lost, so it needs to be confronted. If an IT team finds errors in its website after it goes live, they are often hesitant to draw attention to it right away, or even at all.

It’s important to say that I don’t believe internal IT teams can’t detect errors or are incapable of fixing them. All I’m saying is that our customers are often relieved to receive help from a third party that will objectively identify errors and are guaranteed to have the time and resources to fix them.

How much of this holiday season’s expected $586 billion will you be generating? Hopefully, a lot. Especially if you take the time now to pay attention to your website’s performance and do what it takes to make sure your customers get the best experience. Yes, the competition for customers will be fierce, but sticking to these five simple tips will keep your website up and running through January.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Sven Hammar

Sven Hammar is Co-Founder and CEO of Apica. In 2005, he had the vision of starting a new SaaS company focused on application testing and performance. Today, that concept is Apica, the third IT company I’ve helped found in my career.

Before Apica, he co-founded and launched Celo Commuication, a security company built around PKI (e-ID) solutions. He served as CEO for three years and helped grow the company from five people to 85 people in two years. Right before co-founding Apica, he served as the Vice President of Marketing Bank and Finance at the security company Gemplus (GEMP).

Sven received his masters of science in industrial economics from the Institute of Technology (LitH) at Linköping University. When not working, you can find Sven golfing, working out, or with family and friends.

Latest Stories
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
Automation is enabling enterprises to design, deploy, and manage more complex, hybrid cloud environments. Yet the people who manage these environments must be trained in and understanding these environments better than ever before. A new era of analytics and cognitive computing is adding intelligence, but also more complexity, to these cloud environments. How smart is your cloud? How smart should it be? In this power panel at 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, paneli...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMC has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo and Big Data at Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Global buyers rely on TMC’s content-driven marketplaces to make purchase decisions and navigate markets. Learn how we can help you reach your marketing goals.
Managing mission-critical SAP systems and landscapes has never been easy. Add public cloud with its myriad of powerful cloud native services and this may not change any time soon. Public cloud offers exciting new possibilities for enterprise workloads. But to make use of these possibilities and capabilities, IT teams need to re-think everything they have done before. Otherwise, they will just end up using public cloud as a hosting platform for their workloads, aka known as “lift and shift.”
Cloud promises the agility required by today’s digital businesses. As organizations adopt cloud based infrastructures and services, their IT resources become increasingly dynamic and hybrid in nature. Managing these require modern IT operations and tools. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Raj Sundaram, Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies, will discuss how to modernize your IT operations in order to proactively manage your hybrid cloud and IT environments. He will be sharing bes...
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Silicon India has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Published in Silicon Valley, Silicon India magazine is the premiere platform for CIOs to discuss their innovative enterprise solutions and allows IT vendors to learn about new solutions that can help grow their business.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organi...