The Four P’s of Peak Season Performance: A Guide to Preparing Your Infrastructure for High Traffic

August 25, 2020

By: Corey Gelato,
Author Title: 
Commerce Strategy Consultant
Peak_season-performance

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, it’s important not to waste the preparation, craft, and effort your team puts into succeeding during this time and still having a poorly performing site.

Below is Adobe’s guide to preparing for peak-season performance – what we call “the Four P’s of Peak Performance.” Following this path and implementing the 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. Our recommendation is to start this work at least three months ahead of your most critical dates on the calendar to ensure you are well-prepared. If you’re working with a partner or systems integrator (SI), this can also be a handy guide to discuss their plans to prepare your site for peak season.

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 Magento Business Intelligence, or MBI) for those using this feature serve as a guide to making a useful prediction on what peak season traffic you will 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 you have these data points, use your site’s running daily and weekly averages for traffic and apply last year’s calculated percentage growth for peak season to those numbers. This should give you a sense of what to expect in the coming peak season. 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 these differences in expectations. A strong approach to resolving these questions is to plan for the higher of the two numbers when these results differ greatly.

Another methodology for making a prediction about the resources needed can be to identify your typical peak sales hour and review the load it places on your infrastructure (such as memory, CPU, and disk space). By multiplying these metrics three times over (i.e., tripling them), you can develop a reasonable approximation for a heavy peak traffic incident. If your resources would not meet a tripling of these metrics, your site may 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 may see traffic that is far different than last year’s peak season rates.

2. Put Resources to the Test

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

Typically, this testing will expose 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 a shared plan of action can be developed. If you’re working with a partner or SI, be sure to ask them to share these findings with you or to include them in developing an action plan.

3. Prepare Your Site Accordingly

Increase server capacity and/or database capacity

Now that you have given your site a load test and determined the areas where more capacity is needed, plan how you’ll meet those needs accordingly. It might be that you plan to only temporary increases for the periods where you expect higher traffic. If your site has routinely been running at a high percentage of load, however, this might be a great time to upsize as needed to both meet your peak season needs and give your organization more breathing room as you continue to grow. Indeed, if this had been the case due to COVID-19, it would be recommended to plan around these rates than to assume them to be a temporary bump, since many consumer behaviors may be permanently altered following this global incident.

Along with this, you might consider adding Web Nodes to meet needs exposed in the load test.

If you’re a Magento Commerce customer using our cloud infrastructure, you can request surge capacity for temporary server increases following our Knowledge Base article here. And if you’re interested in discussing a more permanent increase in CPU, disk size, or memory, please be sure to reach out to your Magento Customer Success Manager (CSM).

Utilize a content delivery network

Another way you can help meet your peak season performance needs that were exposed in load testing can be to use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can be used to super-power your cache, creating a global cache network of your static media files, HTML, JS, Style Sheets, and much more. There are many options to utilize for CDN, but if you’re using Magento 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 , we also recommend taking advantage of Full-Page Caching, which is a great way to speed up your Magento 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 how they can drag on performance. We recommend that Merchants utilize 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 is updated to 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 4x, and adding self-service capabilities to enable our merchants to be more productive. See the ece-tools release notes for all of the recent improvements.

Don’t let deployment get you down

It’s important that visitors can shop uninterrupted during the holiday season, but you may also need to push changes to your production environment during this time . Did you know it is possible to 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 utilize Zero Downtime Deployments. Check out the steps laid out in these articles to ensure 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 both cost and time should something go wrong. Because Magento environments deploy as read-only files, a Snapshot restoration can bring your environment back quickly. Read the following article on how to create and, if needed, use Snapshots.

Monitor your performance

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on performance through well-designed monitoring tools. There are many tools and means of monitoring your site performance, so be sure to pick one that pairs well with your organization. We do recommend that Magento Commerce customers who utilize our cloud infrastructure management system take advantage of services like New Relic to monitor site performance.

Keep in touch with your Magento teams

We always recommend that you confirm your contact information listed under Account Settings within your Magento Account login is current and that you’ve shared your organization’s key technical contacts with your Magento CSM. 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 to known security or technical issues.

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.