Source: Pixabay.com

You’ve probably heard about the Oprah Effect or the Shark Tank Effect. This refers to otherwise small businesses that experience a surge in customers because of the wide positive publicity their product received when it was featured on these influential platforms. In the age of the Internet, this surge won’t just be about a crowd of new customers visiting a brick and mortar store. There’ll also be a massive spike in traffic to the company’s website.

This traffic spike can bring down the site and render it unavailable to prospective clients thus causing huge losses in potential sales. It’s therefore important that you prepare your website beforehand. Note that traffic spikes don’t always originate from legitimate sources. Sometimes, it’s a DDoS attack. Either way, the techniques that will help you be better prepared for a positive surge will be just as useful for soaring negative traffic. Here’s how you can firm up your site’s traffic defenses.

1. Website Monitoring

You cannot effectively deal with a problem if you aren’t aware of its existence in the first place. So the first thing you must do is ensure there’s a mechanism in place to check for and immediately notify administrators whenever there’s a significant rise in traffic.

While this is the core function of a website monitoring tool, it’ll often have more extensive features including the ability to distinguish between valid and rogue traffic, identify the root cause and recommending or facilitating appropriate remedial action. The website monitoring software should have the ability to send out alerts via email, SMS and even automated voice calls depending on the severity of the surge.

2. Testing

You don’t have to wait until there are thousands of Internet users trying to access your site simultaneously for you to know whether it can withstand peak traffic. Instead, you can simulate a traffic surge in advance and get a feel of how your website handles it. Stress and load testing help you identify areas of weakness during a traffic surge so you can proactively take preventive action.

Since it’s just a simulation, it’s a great way to thoughtfully and systematically make the needed changes without the pressure that you’d have to endure if a traffic surge caught your site unprepared.

3. Review Your Hosting Provider and Hosting Plan

Study your hosting plan while paying the greatest attention to the sections that deal with what would happen if there’s an extraordinary rise in the number of simultaneous connections to your site. If it isn’t clear, get in touch with the hosting provider’s representative and request for clarification. It’s best to go with a plan that has the flexibility to immediately accommodate a traffic spike.

In the event that your current web host seems rigid and cannot commit to instantly scaling your plan in tandem with traffic changes, it might be time to consider switching to a different provider.

4. Browser Caching

Your website should allow for some degree of browser caching, as it generally means that you can define how long web browsers keep images, CSS and JavaScript stored locally. Caching drastically reduces the amount of data that the visitor’s browser has to retrieve from your website each time they return. The first visit will last longest as it has to download everything. Subsequent visits will be short as only what has changed since the last visit will be retrieved and this will usually be just a fraction of the page’s content.

Remember that the primary reason a traffic surge strains your site’s resources is due to the number of simultaneous connections. If content retrieval time is reduced thanks to browser caching, then so do the number of simultaneous connections over time. Every visitor who leaves quickly creates room for new visitors. You can learn more about JavaScript caching here, and see what the community of different professionals has done that has worked in these situations for them.

Source: Pixabay.com

5. Work with an Expert

If you are a website owner and don’t have extensive practical knowledge in web administration, web development and server management, then you might not have the depth of knowledge needed to adequately prepare your site for a traffic surge. Working with an expert third party would be prudent.

Even if you have a tech background, it doesn’t hurt to let a fresh set of eyes look at your setup and provide recommendations on what more you could do. The cost of engaging a contractor may raise your CFO’s eyebrows when you are setting up an IT budget. Still, the benefits of successfully surfing a surge will make the expense more than worth it.

A traffic spike is ordinarily a good thing. But if your website isn’t prepared for it, it can be detrimental to your business. These tips can make sure you are ready.

Tom Parillo

Tom Parillo

I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.