Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Jerry Melnick, Liz McMillan, Esmeralda Swartz, Roger Strukhoff, Michelle Drolet

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.

Cloud Expo Breaking News
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BUMI, a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Manhattan-based BUMI (Backup My Info!) is a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery. Founded in 2002, the company’s Here, There and Everywhere data backup and recovery solutions are utilized by more than 500 businesses. BUMI clients include professional service organizations such as banking, financial, insurance, accounting, hedge funds and law firms. The company is known for its relentless passion for customer service and support, and has won numerous awards, including Customer Service Provider of the Year and 10 Best Companies to Work For.
Chief Security Officers (CSO), CIOs and IT Directors are all concerned with providing a secure environment from which their business can innovate and customers can safely consume without the fear of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. To be successful in today's hyper-connected world, the enterprise needs to leverage the capabilities of the web and be ready to innovate without fear of DDoS attacks, concerns about application security and other threats. Organizations face great risk from increasingly frequent and sophisticated attempts to render web properties unavailable, and steal intellectual property or personally identifiable information. Layered security best practices extend security beyond the data center, delivering DDoS protection and maintaining site performance in the face of fast-changing threats.
From data center to cloud to the network. In his session at 3rd SDDC Expo, Raul Martynek, CEO of Net Access, will identify the challenges facing both data center providers and enterprise IT as they relate to cross-platform automation. He will then provide insight into designing, building, securing and managing the technology as an integrated service offering. Topics covered include: High-density data center design Network (and SDN) integration and automation Cloud (and hosting) infrastructure considerations Monitoring and security Management approaches Self-service and automation
In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, David Holmes, Vice President at OutSystems, will demonstrate the immense power that lives at the intersection of mobile apps and cloud application platforms. Attendees will participate in a live demonstration – an enterprise mobile app will be built and changed before their eyes – on their own devices. David Holmes brings over 20 years of high-tech marketing leadership to OutSystems. Prior to joining OutSystems, he was VP of Global Marketing for Damballa, a leading provider of network security solutions. Previously, he was SVP of Global Marketing for Jacada where his branding and positioning expertise helped drive the company from start-up days to a $55 million initial public offering on Nasdaq.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 14th Cloud Expo, Marc Jones, Vice President of Product Innovation for SoftLayer, will explain how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
Are you interested in accelerating innovation, simplifying deployments, reducing complexity, and lowering development costs? The cloud is changing the face of application development and deployment, with enterprise-grade infrastructure and platform services making it possible for you to build and rapidly scale enterprise applications. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Gene Eun, Sr. Director, Oracle Cloud at Oracle, will discuss the latest solutions and strategies for application developers and enterprise IT organizations to leverage Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) to build and deploy modern business applications in the cloud.
Hybrid cloud refers to the federation of a public and private cloud environment for the purpose of extending the elastic and flexibility of compute, storage and network capabilities, in an on-demand, pay-as-you go basis. The hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities. Hybrid cloud environments involve complex management challenges. First, organizations struggle to maintain control over the resources that lie outside of their managed IT scope. They also need greater infrastructure visibility to help reduce maintenance costs and ensure that their company data and resources are properly handled and secured.