Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Glenn Rossman, Janakiram MSV, Steven Mandel

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sheng Liang to Keynote at SYS-CON's 19th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1-3, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, will discuss how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your ...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
The vision of a connected smart home is becoming reality with the application of integrated wireless technologies in devices and appliances. The use of standardized and TCP/IP networked wireless technologies in line-powered and battery operated sensors and controls has led to the adoption of radios in the 2.4GHz band, including Wi-Fi, BT/BLE and 802.15.4 applied ZigBee and Thread. This is driving the need for robust wireless coexistence for multiple radios to ensure throughput performance and th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
What are the new priorities for the connected business? First: businesses need to think differently about the types of connections they will need to make – these span well beyond the traditional app to app into more modern forms of integration including SaaS integrations, mobile integrations, APIs, device integration and Big Data integration. It’s important these are unified together vs. doing them all piecemeal. Second, these types of connections need to be simple to design, adapt and configure...
Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide-from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on its established design leadership, Adobe enables customers not o...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp, being held November 1-2, 2016, in conjunction with 19th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but with hands-on demos and detailed walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of real world use cases prototyped using Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark, and Intel Edison. Y...
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...