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Cloud Retail, Transport & Hospitality 6 min read

Is your infrastructure ready for peak season?  

Is your infrastructure ready for peak season?  

In this short blog, Ant Holland ANS SMB Pre-Sales Practice Lead warns that this year many online retailers are in danger of being under prepared for peak season and run the risk of significant financial and reputational losses. He goes on to advise on what to do now to avoid these dangers. 

Last year we heard disturbing stories about online retailers being caught short by surges in demand around peak season retail events such as Easter, Black Friday and even successful marketing campaigns. One anecdote I heard was about a high street retailer who had commissioned a hugely popular influencer as part a marketing campaign for a new product. The influencer drove so much traffic the site crashed; leading to a huge amount of lost sales and disgruntled consumers.   


Under resourced infrastructure 

While not every ecommerce company is using celebrity influencers to drive traffic, websites crashing or slowing to a crawl during high profile retail events due to under resourced infrastructure are not isolated incidents.   

The impact can be devasting. High basket abandon rates, lost sales, increased customer complaints and perhaps more damaging in the long term, the negative impact on reputation from a poor online shopper experience, can be hard to come back from.   

This year we are urging customers to conduct health checks on their infrastructure so they can re-platform in time for peak season in the autumn, rather than having a last minute rush to add extra capacity.   

Some simple questions to ask yourself or your IT team to assess your peak season readiness:   

  1. Scalability. Can your platform rapidly flex up or down? Does it allow you to create additional capacity on the fly?  
  2. Application load balancing. Do you have app load balancing in place? 
  3. Acceptable downtime. What is the acceptable downtime for your ecommerce site?   
  4. Automated deployment of virtual machines. Can you build your infrastructure with code? Can you spin up new virtual machines at the click of a button?   
  5. Capacity load. How much of your capacity is being used?   
  6. Security. Have you got the latest cyber security measures in place? Do you use Next Gen Antivirus? Or have Managed Detection and Response [MDR] in place?   

Paying over the odds 

Conversely, we see many online retailers building their infrastructure to handle the highest possible demand they are ever likely to see. While this might seem a safe bet at first glance, it means retailers are paying for more than they need to.   

Excuse me for using an exaggerated example to illustrate my point. Imagine if John Lewis [other premium retailers are available] only had to pay rent, rates, electricity, heating and other overheads when the store was actually in use. That it could, by some magic of modern technology, shrink down and fold up all its stores when not in use during the night or other times when closed. It would save a fortune.   

This is pretty much what you can do with a modern cloud platform like Azure, AWS or our own eCloud Virtual Private Cloud [VPC]. You can set your capacity or number of virtual machines to suit your current off-peak demand, then as you roll out marketing campaigns or move towards key retail events, you can instantly scale up without any hassle. So, you only pay for what you use at that moment in time, rather than paying for the maximum you are likely to need throughout the whole year.   


Time is now 

However, you can only do this if you are running on the cloud. It’s much harder to do this with a dedicated server. And it’s never sensible to move platforms just before your most important trading time of the year. So, we are urging all online retailers to start to plan migration to the cloud now so you can be ready for peak season.