The Five Ps of Peak Season Performance: A Guide to Preparing Your Infrastructure for High Traffic

August 20, 2021

By: Corey Gelato, Commerce Strategy Consultant , Adobe

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The journey to success in your organization’s peak season – be that the traditional holidays or your industry’s specific busy period – starts with making sure the infrastructure of your digital storefront is ready to perform. Whatever this annual opportunity looks like for your business, preparation for your peak season should start with your ecommerce site.

Below is Adobe’s guide to preparing for peak-season performance – what we call “the Five Ps of Peak Performance". Implementing these recommendations is a small investment of time, but should be high on your organization’s priority list so that you can smoothly ramp up to meet your peak sales traffic.

We recommend that you start this work at least three months ahead of your most critical calendar dates to ensure that you are well prepared. If you’re working with a partner or systems integrator (SI), this overview provides a handy guide to discuss how they plan to prepare your site for peak season.

Graphic displaying people using their personal devices to online shop

1. Predict Your Traffic and Order Volume

Wild guesses based on gut instinct are fine at your favorite casino or racetrack, but when it comes to your organization’s most important opportunity of the year, a data-based approach should rule your planning. Four key benchmarks (easily reviewed via Adobe Commerce Business Intelligence, or MBI) serve as a guide to make useful predictions about the peak season traffic you need to support:

  • Your site’s traffic load over the past six months on a daily and weekly average
  • Your site’s traffic load during last year’s peak season dates
  • The calculated percentage increase for last year’s peak season traffic over the last year’s six-month average prior to peak season
  • The year-over-year percentage growth rate in traffic between last year’s and this year’s site traffic

Once your team gathers the data outlined above, first calculate expectations for the coming peak season by applying last year’s calculated percentage growth against your site’s running daily and weekly averages for traffic. Use the overall year-over-year growth rate to validate the resulting prediction from the step above by applying this percentage to last year’s peak season numbers. If the numbers are not generally in agreement, discuss with your team how to adjudicate the differences. A strong approach to resolving questions about large differences between the two numbers is to plan for traffic volume at the higher number.

Another methodology for making a prediction about the required resources is to identify your typical peak sales hour and review the load it places on your infrastructure (such as memory, CPU, and disk space). Multiply these metrics by 3 to calculate a reasonable approximation of the resources required to handle a heavy peak traffic incident. If your resources do not meet a tripling of these metrics, your site might require additional resources to meet peak demand.

And, of course, remember to give some consideration to how COVID-19 has already impacted your digital storefront and whether your site might experience peak season traffic levels far different than last year's peak levels.

2. Put Resources to the Test

With your predicted resource model for this year’s peak season, load test your infrastructure to validate how your site might hold up against the expected traffic. A good first step in this process is to review Adobe’s recommendations on load testing for Adobe Commerce sites.

Typically, this testing exposes several deficiencies. Be sure to have a robust process in place to both document these failure points and to communicate them within your organization so that you can develop a shared action plan to address them. If you’re working with a partner or an SI, be sure to ask them to share these findings with you or to include the information when they develop an action plan.

3. Prepare Your Site Accordingly

Increase server capacity and/or database capacity
Now that you have completed site load testing and determined areas requiring additional capacity, the next step is to plan how to meet those needs. You might need flexible capacity to cover the periods where you expect higher traffic. If your site has routinely been running at a high percentage of load, however, you might take the opportunity to increase capacity to both meet your peak season needs and give your organization more breathing room as you grow. Since many consumer behaviors have permanently changed during the pandemic, you might want to assume that the web traffic and transaction increases over the past year will continue.

Additionally, you might consider adding Web Nodes to meet resource requirements exposed in the load test. If you’re an Adobe Commerce customer using our cloud infrastructure, you can request surge capacity for temporary server increases as described in our Knowledge Base article. If you’re interested in discussing a more permanent increase in CPU, disk size, or memory, reach out to your Adobe Customer Success Manager (CSM).

Use a content delivery network
Another way to meet the peak season performance needs identified during load testing is to use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN super-powers your cache, creating a global cache network of your static media files, HTML, JS, Style Sheets, and much more to decrease load and improve response times. You have many CDN options, but if you’re using Adobe Commerce, you have access to the Fastly CDN.

Update your caching configuration
You can also approach resolving infrastructure needs by reducing the number of hits on your server through better caching configurations. Along with our Best Practices on Cache Management, we also recommend taking advantage of Full-Page Caching, which is a great way to speed up your Adobe Commerce site.

4. Practice Good Habits

Optimize images for a fast eCommerce site
Images are a critical piece of the sales process, but these can be a net negative when improperly managed due to slow load times that impact site performance. We recommend that Merchants use 72 dpi images that are WebSafe. You can find more information in our article on Resizing Product Images.

Update to the latest ece-tools package
Ensure that your cloud environment uses the latest version of ece-tools to take advantage of the enhancements delivered in our deployment tooling. Recent releases include improvements related to the local development experience, speeding up the deployment of static content by up to 400%, and adding self-service capabilities to enable our merchants to be more productive. See the ece-tools release notes for details on the recent improvements.

Don’t let deployment get you down
It’s important that visitors can shop uninterrupted during the holiday season, but you might need to push changes to your production environment during this time. Did you know you can configure your project so that the customer experiences zero downtime during these deployments? One of the best ways you can practice good cloud infrastructure management is to complete the steps to configure Adobe Commerce for Zero Downtime Deployments. Applying these configuration best practices ensures that your customers engage with a live site, regardless of your deployment routine.

Back up your eCommerce site
Employ proper back-up management to prevent a time-consuming environment rollback. A Snapshot allows you to back up and then restore specific environments at any time, which can save time and cost if something goes wrong with a deployment. Because Adobe Commerce environments deploy as read-only files, a Snapshot restoration brings your environment back quickly. See the Adobe Commerce Developer Guide for details on creating and using Snapshots.

Monitor your performance
It’s always a good idea to use well-designed monitoring tools to keep an eye on performance. You have many options when it comes to tools and processes for monitoring site performance, so be sure to pick a method that pairs well with your organization. We do recommend that Adobe Commerce customers who use our cloud infrastructure management system take advantage of services like New Relic to monitor site performance.

Additionally, customers can now take advantage of Observation for Adobe Commerce, a New Relic nerdlet. This application provides a quick snapshot of your overall site performance as well as options to drill down and get more information on potential performance issues.

Keep in touch with your Adobe teams
We always recommend that you log in to your Adobe Commerce account and verify the contact information listed under Account Settings. Also, make sure that your Adobe CSM has information about your organization’s key technical contacts . If you’re working with a solution partner, discuss their support plans for your holiday period so that everyone can execute on the plan should anything unexpected arise. These steps help us to alert the right people in your organization about any security or technical issues when they occur.

5. Protect Your Site (and Your Customer Data)

Upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Commerce
As hackers become more sophisticated, it’s critical that Adobe Commerce merchants are running the latest software, and this is especially true as we head into Peak Season. Bad actors know that businesses are distracted during busy periods, and often use the noise of the holidays to pull off their biggest frauds of the year. If you haven’t upgraded your site to the latest version of Adobe Commerce, we recommend you do it before Peak Season.

Even when you’re not up to date, stay safe
Security patches allow businesses to keep up with the latest security trends, even if they are not using the most current version of Adobe Commerce. We recommend installing security patches as they become available. Don’t let them stack up. The Magento Quality Package can help you access and apply patches, so your site stays up to date.

Visit the Security Center to learn about the latest security patches as well as best practices.

Take advantage of the Adobe Commerce Security Scan
Use the Security Scan tool to monitor all of your Adobe Commerce sites—including Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)—for known security risks and malware. This tool runs over 21,000 security tests and provides insights into the real-time security status of your store. You can also use the tool to run security checks automatically on a daily or weekly schedule. The security scan output lists any identified issues and provides best practice guidance to resolve them.

Looking for more content on preparing your site for your peak season? Check out parts 2 and 3 of our Peak Performance Planning series in the coming weeks.

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