With the festive season fast approaching, it’s time to consider how your ecommerce store will fair against the inevitable traffic increase during the busiest shopping days of the year.
Popular open-source platform Magento suggests 12 sure-fire ways to ensure your business doesn’t get hit with the holiday blues this year:
1. Know your backup or failover strategy. Your System Integrator or technical support team may have created one for you, but have you reviewed it lately? Know what—and who—is involved so you can be prepared.
2. Know your scale and database replication strategy. Beyond knowing what to do if a server fails, you should have a plan in place for quickly deploying additional standby hardware to accommodate load spikes on days such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
3. Load test your system under peak load scenarios. Use your holiday sales projections and predictive load testing to test your system for capacity to handle concurrent users in both browsing and buying scenarios. Predictive load testing services are available from companies such as Gomez, Concentric, and Magento’s Expert Consulting Group (ECG).
4. Check the timing of your scheduled processes. Be sure that back-end processes such as database backups and batched imports or exports don’t coincide with expected peak holiday hours. You don’t want to find out during an outage that routine backups brought down your system.
5. Enable Magento application caching features. Magento allows you to cache configuration, layouts, blocks output, translations, collections data, Web services configuration, and full pages (Full Page Caching is exclusive to Magento Enterprise Edition). All these cache types can be enabled/disabled via the Magento Admin panel and can help improve overall system performance.
7. Clean up any inactive CMS pages and remove out-of-date promotions or products. The less data you have to serve up or rules you have to validate against, the faster your response times.
8. Archive old orders and limit your shopping cart lifespan. Unless you specify otherwise, your customers’ abandoned shopping carts will retain their items indefinitely. Set a reasonable limit on shopping cart lifetime values (such as 30 or 60 days during the holidays). Likewise, archiving order data is a manual process in Magento. Offload last season’s data to make room for more orders and transactions.
9. Limit the number of concurrent promotions in the system. The more promotional rules you create, the more calculations the system needs to perform at checkout—and the slower your site performance. Instead of setting up multiple promotions, try targeting specific customers using conditions. (Customer segmentation is exclusive to Magento Enterprise Edition).
10. Apply catalog price rules well in advance of peak hours. Magento requires time to update price rules such as markdowns; apply the rules early to avoid slowing down your system while these updates occur.
11. Schedule heavy admin activity outside of peak hours. Also, refrain from flushing cache or re-indexing via the admin panel during peak traffic periods.
12. Disable extra functionality you’re not using. Magento is a robust and feature-rich platform. If you’re not using certain native functionality—such as wish lists or gift cards—in your store, have your SI temporarily disable these so you can realize the best possible performance. (Note: Disabling functionality must be done at the programming level.)
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