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Black Friday through the eyes of a hosting provider

Three years ago we first alerted our Dutch clients to Black Friday; an originally American phenomenon. ‘You should do something with that next year!’ was our advice. It is currently one of the most important days of the year for us as a hosting provider. Our main goal is to provide such support to online stores that they have a phenomenally successful run. Awareness, preparation and thinking ahead are vital. This article will give you an idea as to our approach.

The ultimate cliché, but nonetheless true: well begun is half done.

Just like most online stores, we start preparing for Black Friday about two months prior. Our platform itself doesn’t require any preparation, but we like to be sure that all the online stores are peak-proof to benefit optimally from this key period.

“Our main goal is to provide such support to the stores that they have a phenomenally successful run.”

An assessment with the online retailer, technical partner and hosting partner

With over excess of 2,000 Magento stores on our platform and ample experience with many previous peak periods, we are well aware of potential bottlenecks. Sometimes a specific configuration is normally absolutely fine, but causes issues at peak moments. For this reason, we proactively implemented a sort of holiday period assessment with a number of stores. We met up with the client and technical partner to ensure the store could weather Black Friday demands without too many headaches. Things we looked at included:

  • How many visitors are expected?
  • Which issues arose in previous years?
  • What information does the MageReport Premium dashboard provide: what are the conclusions from this data, what can be optimized further? Are there any noteworthy long-running processes?
  • Are there any subtle, smart ways we can adjust the Hypernode settings? What usually works fine, but can be problematic with peak loads?

Proactive advice

We proactively called a number of stores that were already skirting CPU and memory limits. If we could identify opportunities for further optimization we’d pass these on (“In your case it might be smarter to use Redis for storing sessions too”), otherwise we recommended that they upgrade their hosting capacity.

Guaranteed sufficient resources at little additional cost

What became evident in the process was that many clients/partners were unaware of our option to scale up by the day. This way, you only pay for the days you’re actually using the extra capacity. Additional costs are kept to a minimum, while also ensuring that your store won’t hit any limits. If you anticipate significant turnover, then this really is a bit of a no-brainer.

“When additional hosting resources can be paid for by the day, the cost becomes negligible compared to the additional turnover generated that day.”

Database volume swap (what??)

We advised a number of clients to upgrade in advance to a 2XL version of the Professional or Excellence plans. If visitor numbers then go through the roof on Black Friday, scaling up is possible using the database volume swap technology with minimal disruption, as it only takes a minute. However, to benefit from this technology your shop requires a 2XL version at the minimum.

And then it was Black Friday

We secretly love this kind of day. Our staff showed up early to help with the monitoring. Some extreme peaks and ‘stuttering’ stores were already evident early that morning. We immediately informed the relevant contacts. The sooner you address these issues, the better. After all, on Black Friday, chances are loads will only increase as the day progresses. By 10 a.m. we had already saved or helped twelve online stores. By then it was too late to implement optimizations, but scaling up to more resources was still an option.

Concrete cases

  • Store A sent out a mailing to 1.5 million addresses (staggered, fortunately). A CTR of 10% was expected.
  • Store B sent out a mailing to approx. 5,000 addresses every 15 minutes within a 5-hour time frame, for two consecutive days.
  • Store C upgraded from a Professional M level to Excellence 4XL a week prior to Black Friday. They did this in two stages: early in the week they migrated from Professional M to Excellence 2XL, to enable them to use the volume swap technology if required. This turned out to be a wise move, as in the event, on Black Friday itself they moved on to Excellence 4XL. Per day, this only cost them an additional €228. A fraction of their turnover for these days.
  • Store D upgraded from a Professional M package to Professional 5XL the day before Black Friday and downgraded again on Saturday, so for a period of only three days. This cost the store only €81 more per day.

“By 10 a.m. we had already saved or helped twelve online stores.”

Hosting advice for a successful sales event

  • Save the data from this past Black Friday: how many visitors, how many orders, how many visitors at the same time, what were the peak moments, what was the mailing CTR? This data will be a great help during next year’s preparations.
  • Share your plans with your technical partner and hosting party. Be aware that your plans may have ramifications you may not pick up on. Your technical partner and hosting party are experts, let them assess this.
  • Start your preparations well in advance.
  • Think ahead. Another of those clichés: prevention is better than cure. And when additional hosting resources can be paid for by the day, the cost (probably) becomes negligible compared to the additional turnover generated that day.

Interested in our services and what we can do for Magento shops? Don’t hesitate to contact us, or download our white paper ‘5 Ways Hypernode saves your Magento developer heaps of time‘.

How Hypernode saves time