Server Crashes on Black Friday & Cyber Monday and the Importance of Reliability

Black Friday Shopping Disasters

Black Friday. It’s one of the largest shopping days of the year, and for most retailers a time of celebration—it’s when their accountants finally put away their red pen, indicating losses, and whip out a black one, signifying that the company is turning a profit. Unfortunately for some, Black Friday and its offspring Cyber Monday also come with challenges in the form of server crashes, as millions of shoppers flood retail websites at once looking for unbeatable deals.

 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday by the Numbers

With Black Friday just one day away and Cyber Monday following right in its footsteps, we wanted to look back at last year’s performance. In 2017, total Black Friday sales approached $3 billion, with an unprecedented 13 million online transactions being processed. Nearly 175 million Americans shopped, with the average person spending  about $290.

Cyber Monday 2017 also broke records. It became the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, with digital transactions hitting a jaw-dropping $6.5 billion—an increase of almost 17% over the previous year. This figure also put a spotlight on America’s love affair with the smartphone, as mobile sales hit $2 billion for the first time ever.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon and Walmart were the top Black Friday and Cyber Monday retailers, making up a respective 45% and 14% of all online transactions. Target, Kohl’s, and Best Buy came in third through fifth place in the race to capture sales.

 

Black Friday Fails and Cyber Monday Mishaps of 2017

Who’s going to crash this year? It’s become something of a game amongst industry insiders, trying to predict which retail site will crash in the wake of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday web traffic surges. But for the retailers, it’s no game; just a few seconds of downtime could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars (so much for getting into the black) and cause devastating brand damage. And in today’s world of social media, a crash doesn’t fly under the radar; frustrated shoppers will take to Twitter and other platforms to voice their frustrations, reaching an even greater audience.

Here’s a handful of recent Back Friday fails and Cyber Monday mishaps.

 

Macy’s

The department store chain is no stranger to outages; in 2016, Macy’s website went dark on Black Friday morning and stayed that way into the afternoon, costing millions in sales. Hopes for a rebound in 2017 were dashed when another glitch caused the retailer’s mobile app and website to experience outages and its credit transaction system to go down completely.

 

Lowes

"The site is currently offline and will be available within the next hour." Not the type of greeting a shopper wants to see, but see it they did for about 20 minutes on Black Friday of 2017. And while 20 minutes may not seem like a long time, the home improvement giant estimates hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue were lost as a result.

 

J. Crew

No doubt there was a fair amount of high-fiving going around the apparel retailers’ corporate offices following the smooth sailing success of Black Friday. So much so that they upped their discounts, offering 40% off during Cyber Monday and an additional 10% for purchases made before noon. Eager customers flooded the website, which quickly crashed and remained down for over two hours. J. Crew wound up having to extend the sale until 3am to appease frustrated customers.

 

The Importance of Scalability and Uptime

It’s not uncommon, in the aftermath of these busy shopping days, for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) to think, “if retail giants like these can experience devastating server crashes, what about me?”. While most SMBs will never experience the enormous amounts of traffic that these retailers do on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, there are bound to be occasional surges in traffic or a permanent increase in traffic if the company experiences rapid growth, compromising the capabilities of the infrastructure. This is when, if not properly planned for, an SMBs website could go dark. For some SMBs this can be the kiss of death, as studies show 40% of visitors will leave a website if the loading process takes more than three seconds.

Scalability through a cloud-based infrastructure with a reputable provider offers a simple solution. Through a provider, SMBs can expand their infrastructure to handle increased workloads, allowing them to quickly adapt as they grow. This is one of the cloud’s greatest strengths, and is often cited as one of the main reasons for rapid migration. With the cloud, there’s no need to purchase additional servers or find the real estate to house them; instead, organizations can simply ask their provider to allocate the additional resources needed to expand the cloud environment in order to handle greater amounts of traffic or transactions.

SMBs will also want to consider their provider’s uptime, which refers to how fast a data center can get their client’s business, its applications, and its website running again in the event of a crash. The industry standard for uptime is measured in percentages based on how many nines are included. A good rule of thumb for organizations is to seek out a provider that can offer 99.99% (“four nines”) uptime, which reduces downtime to under an hour per year, the equivalent of just a few seconds per day. A reputable provider will also detail the financial penalties they will incur for failing to live up to the guaranteed terms in the event of a crash.

 

How to Avoid Disaster

Even if you’re not in the retail business, these holiday shopping statistics are enough to scare anyone. If you have concerns over your organization’s ability to scale and take on increased workoads, speak with the IT experts at DSM, Florida’s predictable cloud provider.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at DSM, and happy bargain hunting this holiday weekend!

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