In 2018, downtime for a website which relies on selling products or services to make a profit is borderline destructive. In this day and age, downtime for your website not only costs money, it can also negatively affect your reputation. Website errors not only affect the end-user too; the problems invariably require in-house engineers to resolve the issue, pulling them away from other key tasks as a result.
Website downtime is by no means an issue confined to e-commerce websites, but a rock-solid and consistent user experience is more important for online retailers than any other sector in terms of attracting and retaining customers. It’s all about those fine margins. Leading global marketplace Amazon recently calculated that even a one-second delay in their website’s operations could cost the company up to $1.6bn a year in sales.
Admittedly, the best way to ensure high availability for all in-datacentre and cross-datacentre websites is to incorporate a load balancer into your website’s infrastructure. Load balancing can work for online retailers where they operate using local servers in a single country or global servers in multiple locations around the world. At a local level, where online traffic to your website is shared across a number of servers within your data centre, a local load balancing application can optimise that distribution of visitors equally across all servers to improve the efficiency of your server loads and ensure swift, secure user experiences.
E-commerce brands operating from multiple data centres, often in different countries to serve visitors in their native region, can also ensure high availability and dependable website performance with a global load balancing solution. With a global infrastructure, users are funnelled to the data centre with the fastest connection time, although it’s possible to configure the system to direct users to a location-specific data centre based on their geolocation. With load balancing, it’s possible to get real-time overview of the health and efficiency of your web servers and data centres and direct your users to an active data centre. This software can issue health check requests to each server to periodically monitor their performance.
Of course, downtime for any e-commerce website doesn’t just affect sales and reputation, it can negatively impact upon a website’s prominence in search engine results pages (SERPs). Both Google and Bing take a dim view of websites that have regular site outages, which could result in your website being outranked by competitors, although you’re doing the rest of your SEO absolutely right. In fact, Google’s John Mueller recommends that if you’re aware that your website will need to be down for some time, you should use a 503 server code to make search engine bots aware that it’s only a temporary issue. That will allow you to recover your SEO rankings more easily once you’re back online.
For any online retailer, it’s essential not to just be able to quickly respond to a crisis. In fact, it’s better to have a proactive monitoring system that allows you to keep on top of issues before they evolve into potential downtime-worthy problems. The failure of even the biggest retailers such as Amazon should serve as a clear warning to other e-commerce brands that downtime can – and will – happen. Minimise your website’s performance degradation and server failures with periodic testing and load balancing to help things operate on an even keel.