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Thanksgiving Online 2013: How to Keep Black Friday in the Black

Posted on 11.20.2013

: By Atchison Frazer, KEMP Technologies :

Black Friday, a term, believed to have first been used in the 1960s, got its name from the use of black ink for profits and red ink for losses in the retailers’ accounts. Black Friday marked the first day in the profitable season from Thanksgiving to New Year, while from January to Thanksgiving they expected to run at a loss.

Why is it essential that you make sure all of your systems and infrastructure are up to performance muster this year? In 2012, on Black Friday alone, 247 million customers spent $59.5 billion with 47.5 percent of the purchases being made online. Therefore, while most analysts expect online sales to cross the 50 percent-plus mark of all sales this year for the first time, you may not have noticed that there is a surprise package hidden in this growth: the spike in numbers of online mobile shoppers. 

Customers surveyed this year say that they don’t plan to spend more during this peak season than last year, but they intend to avoid long lines and waiting around by shopping online. In fact, online shopping is expected to increase 17 percent overall, according to figures published by Adobe recently. On Cyber Monday, FedEx predicts online shopping to increase of 11 percent and are making their preparations accordingly.  

Adobe goes on to predict that 20 percent of all online sales during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday will be made from mobile devices, an astonishing increase of 50 percent compared with 2012. Therefore, it strongly advises that resellers have their mobile-optimized sites ready for shoppers using their phones to check for lower prices and availability as well making purchases.

Considering that it is estimated a website outage would cost Amazon $120,000 per minute on a normal day, if you’re running a merchant account online business, you cannot take any risks of a web outage of your online servers during this critical period. Therefore, there are seven practical steps that you can take to make sure you are ready to provide a fast, seamless service to optimize your profits:

1. Check your application instance health, ensuring that the environment is working correctly, patched against the latest threats and stress tested.

2. Review utilization metrics of your application infrastructure from previous holiday seasons to create trend analysis and take any necessary preemptive actions. Include information such as:

a. Data Throughput

b. SSL Transactions

c. Disk response time

d. Database requests/second

e. CPU and memory utilization

3. Get sales predictions from your marketing and sales departments to determine required resources. Include answers to the following in your analysis:

a. What is the volume of sales are they expecting this year? 

b. Which hours are expected to be busiest? 

c. What is the projected usage across different device types by shoppers?

4. Make sure you have application-centric Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) deployed to service your application infrastructure. Modern ADCs ensure user service continuity by monitoring the environment at the application level and directing client requests to the best performing instance.

5. Thoroughly test your Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan to be prepared for unexpected outages. Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) technology can be included in the plan to allow for intelligent load distribution and automated failover across dispersed data centers. 

Atchison Frazer, CMO at KEMP Technologies, has over 20 years' experience in technology marketing for both global IT leaders like Cisco and HP, as well as disruptive market-maker start-ups like Gnodal (now part of Cray) and Fortinet. At Cisco, Atchison was responsible for marketing and communications, services strategy and sales enablement to support Cisco’s global enterprise theatre and enterprise transformation market segments. Atchison also served as the enterprise marketing lead for network optimization, security services, professional advisory services, solutions architecture, emerging technologies, and acquisition integration.

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