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Why should businesses that experience seasonal web traffic spikes switch to the cloud?

Black Friday was originally a big, bold, annual sales bonanza that was only available to those living across the pond. Today, it’s the biggest global shopping day of the year with estimates suggesting British shoppers splashed out £810 million on pre-Christmas purchases in just 24 hours last year. The massive influx of customers meant many of the UK’s biggest retailers’ websites crashed under the pressure, bringing transactions to a complete standstill.

Too many customers at once is a nice problem to have, but losing out on sales due to your IT infrastructure being unable to cope is imprudent and entirely preventable, even if web traffic increases by a few hundred percent.

Although the retail world is not the only sector which sees seasonal peaks in demand, it does see some of the most dramatic spikes in web traffic, which are useful demonstrations of the need for a resilient website that can cope with the elasticity of demand.

For many years, businesses have adopted the traditional approach of using on-site web servers, however, these are far from infallible and it can take a considerable amount of time to configure and deploy them if you urgently require further resource. As such, many are now realising the benefits of the cloud and using it for web hosting and data storage.

Why the cloud?

By hosting a website in the cloud, retailers have an IT infrastructure that is perfect for handling traffic and catering to demand, ensuring one of your most important sources of income doesn’t crash at a business-critical time.

Hosting a website in the cloud basically means that instead of investing in costly, on-site hardware, all aspects of your website are hosted on virtual servers, located in your provider’s data centre. This means all the technical aspects – the cooling, security and maintenance of your website – are handled by your provider. What’s more, if you purchase on-site servers solely for coping with seasonal spikes then they are often unused for the rest of the year which results in wasted expense.

Is it scalable?

Whilst some businesses may choose to move everything into a cloud environment (which is highly advisable), sometimes it’s simply impractical or unaffordable. Moving your web applications is a must, though, as it frees up more space on your web server, ensuring you can better handle requests from your clients. In case you are unfamiliar, cloud computing has an infinite amount of scalability ensuring it can match your unique requirements.

The major benefit of the cloud for seasonal events, such as Black Friday, is the immediacy at which you can get additional resources. You don’t have to wait around for any customer service department when you need resources, as you can scale the service up or down immediately at the click of a button, ensuring business continues as normal. Your provider will simply upgrade your infrastructure to ensure the website remains operational. The process is virtually seamless and best of all – your customers won’t notice a difference.

What’s the cost?

Cloud solutions needn’t cost the earth either. Most cloud providers usually offer the service on a tiered system that is based on the amount of storage your business needs. The scalability factor is extremely useful and a cost-effective way in handling seasonal spikes that occur. And once it’s over, you can easily scale back down to match normal traffic levels.

Preparation is key

Experts are predicting that online retail sales will surpass the £1 billion mark on Black Friday this year, which will be the first time in the UK that this figure has been reached during a single day. This makes it a lucrative e-commerce opportunity that retail businesses would be foolish to miss out on by being unprepared.

Black Friday, however, is just one example of when web traffic can increase dramatically in a short period of time. Government announcements, legislation change, end of financial year budget blowouts, or even a celebrity randomly endorsing a product or service, can all result in your site visitors rocketing.

So at a time when your customer is just one click away from your competition, it’s never been more important to ensure your website can keep up with whatever demand comes your way.

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