Surviving the Spike: How Enterprises Can Prepare for
High-Traffic Events

An eBook exploring several steps enterprises can take to prepare for increased demand on a website.
Written by
Stephanie Ogozaly
My role on this project
Writer, Content Marketer

“The website is down!”

As an enterprise leader, those four words should send a shiver down your spine.
Because you know it's not just a website—it's your daily business—and every moment you're offline could mean a missed sale, a missed contact, and a missed opportunity.

There are many reasons why a website might go down, but an unexpected spike in traffic is one of the most common. Some examples of high-traffic events include:

• Launching a brand new site
• Re-platforming (e.g. moving between hosting providers, moving CMS version or type)
• Marketing campaign launches or events (e.g. paid search ads)
• Planned or seasonal events (e.g. Black Friday, Super Bowl Sunday)
• Unplanned events (e.g. going viral on Twitter, getting national news coverage)

Whatever the reason for the spike in traffic, if you're not prepared, your website is liable to go down—and so could your customers' opinion of your business. A poor user experience does nothing to build brand loyalty or generate sales.

With expected seasonal or planned events, such as Black Friday or a sporting event, you can prepare internal operations in advance as well as notify your hosting provider. Other events, however, may be completely unexpected and could leave your web operations team scrambling for a last-minute solution. This is why it's critical to put a plan in place before you need it.

To prepare for increased demand on your website, there are several steps you
can take to ensure that all visitors have an enjoyable experience.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

You can think of a CDN like an insurance policy in that it's there when you need it. No website is “too small” for a CDN; if you care about user experience, you need to use a CDN.

Here's how it works: A CDN is designed to provide web content to your users with speed, security, and performance no matter where they're located in the world. When a customer visits your website, the CDN automatically determines their location and delivers content from the server that's physically closest to your visitor. This physical proximity translates to an increased speed of delivery. Faster websites = happier customers.

Why do you need a CDN? Think about the last time you were browsing websites online. You probably didn't leave a slow-loading site with a positive impression of the organization. You may have even left such a site before it had the chance to fully load. You don't want your customers to have that experience on your website, do you? Unreliable websites lose business.

2. Create Event Awareness

Let us tell you a true story. “Company X” was launching a new product. Their marketing team put together a creative campaign to launch and promote this new product. So far, so good. The problem came when the marketing team launched a paid search ad campaign. The load caused by the ad campaign proved to be too much and the marketing team had effectively taken the website offline with DDoS. Ouch!

This example should serve as an important reminder of the importance of creating awareness around planned events or launches. Make sure there are internal processes in place for alerting your web operations team and hosting provider about upcoming initiatives that have the potential to become high-traffic events. Having information ahead of time can mean the difference between a seamless user experience and an unresponsive website that damages your reputation.

3. Load Test Your System

Load testing is critical when preparing for a high-traffic event and can help you create a more resilient system. Load tests can be used to confirm current system limits or test new limits, but they can also be used to spot problems early. You may need to run these tests several times, but at the end of it, you should have a good idea of the traffic your system can handle.

You can test your website's performance by performing these tasks:

• Production hardware replication (scaled up if appropriate)
• Emulate expected user behavior, use existing analytics, or expected flows
• Emulate what the browser would be doing (download all assets, including HTTP 404s)
• Ensure complex tasks are also simulated at the same time (e.g. editorial, searching, form submissions, feeds ingestions)

4. Enable Auto Scaling

The internet is like the weather: it's always changing. The factors that influence your website's traffic could change at a moment's notice. For example, if you go viral on Reddit, could your website survive the well-known “hug of death” that tends to follow? What if you get national news coverage, or perhaps a celebrity promotes your product on Instagram?

Having autoscaling in place can help you deal with the peaks and valleys of traffic and ensure optimal uptime for your website. In cloud computing, autoscaling is a feature that allows organizations to scale computational resources up or down automatically based on factors like variable traffic patterns. But here's what's important to know about autoscaling: it can have an impact on what you pay. Autoscaling can mean that you actually pay less because most providers charge based on total usage.

5. View Real-Time Analytics

As they say, knowledge is power. Remember to track your analytics in real time during a high-traffic event. Doing so will help you determine how well the current system is performing, how many requests you're receiving per second, where traffic is coming from, and the cache offload rate from your CDN. Having this data is valuable, but it's even more valuable to have the ability to respond to it quickly and efficiently.

6. Have a Backup Plan

Say the worst happens, and your website goes down. What does the end user see? In many cases, it's a generic web server error page, but it is possible to offer a better experience. Many CDNs have the ability to load balance origins and even fall back to a static version of the website. No one wants to have their website go offline, but it's important to think about what you’ll serve up to customers if it does happen.

7. Keep Your Hosting Provider in the Loop

It's recommended that you inform your web host, CDN provider, and support staff as soon as you're aware that you're experiencing a high-traffic event. This will ensure that technical staff will be available or on call during your event. At amazee.io, our engineers monitor operations daily and are always ready to add additional resources for our clients if there is a spike in traffic. Being prepared results in less scaling operations and better stability of the overall system. It also gives our clients peace of mind that their sites will stay online, always.

My high-traffic event is over. Now what?

You may have made it through a high-traffic storm, but how can you determine how successful you were at responding? Here are a few simple things you can check:

• How “exciting” are your analytics graphs? The more boring, the better.

• What were people saying on social media about your brand? Have your marketing or social media team check for brand mentions using sentiment analysis.

• Did you go viral for the right reasons? Check for trending hashtags related to your brand. If a hashtag exists, is it positive or negative?

• Do your users remember the event for the content or the problems with it?

When the event is over, remember to run a detailed postmortem to understand your successes and areas for improvement. Identify your action items and make a survival plan for your next high-traffic event.

You don't have to do this alone.

At amazee.io, we provide enterprise-grade managed hosting services to hundreds of organizations. They rely on us for the speed, scalability, and security of their sites and web applications. Every website has unique requirements. It's important to find solutions that meet your business needs, such as a fully customizable CDN that improves website performance for global visitors and protects your application and data from security vulnerabilities.

The ups and downs of traffic are nothing new to the folks at amazee.io. When
the global pandemic started in early 2020, we helped the Australian Government
to manage the unprecedented additional load created by COVID-19 related news, all while maintaining a 99.9% SLA.

We're not just your web host, we're your partner. This is why our team of experts is available 24/7. Whether we’re overseeing autoscaling, answering a support question, or collaborating with a customer on a new feature, we're always happy to assist. Your success is our success!

amazee.io is helping organizations like yours to...

• Boost website performance with CDN + WAF
• Create a repeatable framework for event notifications across departments
• Perform load testing to simulate real-world performance
• Enable autoscaling to ensure uptime during high-traffic events
• Determine which mission-critical metrics to track during times of high traffic
• Create a “just in case” backup plan to guarantee a positive user experience

We can help create your high-traffic survival plan. Reach out to us today!