With Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday shopping season fast approaching, retailers, auction sites, banks and credit-card companies are bracing for an onslaught of deal-hunting online shoppers who expect their transactions to be handled quickly, safely and securely.
For data center operators, that means being ready to handle … well, just about anything. From massive ups and downs in Web traffic to an ever-increasing threat of cyber-attacks, IT service providers are likely to have their hands full like never before.
In many ways, this year’s holiday shopping season is shaping up to be much like last year’s, only more so. Numerous retailers – including Amazon – started promoting holiday deals in the week before Thanksgiving, and Black “Friday” now starts around 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. As a result, online shoppers are hitting the virtual marketplaces earlier than ever.
Whether at home, in stores or elsewhere, a growing number of shoppers are also using their mobile devices to deal-check, comparison-shop and buy. As Google recently pointed out, nearly half of 25- to 34-year-olds now shop online using their phones … while they’re already standing in store lines.
According to Adobe’s 2014 Digital Index Online Shopping Forecast, holiday sales on Thanksgiving are expected to hit $1.35 billion, 27 percent higher than last year. Cyber Monday sales are also projected to see double-digit growth (15 percent) this year. A large proportion of those purchases are likely to involve credit cards, which means they’ll be vulnerable to hacks and other cyber-attacks.
With last year’s high-profile holiday hacking of Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers, online security this year will require even more around-the-clock scrutiny. For IT pros, that will mean employing IPS (intrusion prevention system) and IDS (intrusion detection system) appliances and watching carefully for any unusual data patterns … and being ready to respond rapidly to isolate any threats.
And then there’s the need for speed. Every one of those mobile and web-based transactions will need to be handled quickly, because delays mean lost sales. A couple of years ago, the analytics firm KISSmetrics found that, for an online retailer taking in $100,000 a day, every one-second delay in page-loading times could translate into annual sales losses of $2.5 million. So serving up data quickly will be critical.
To sum up: if you’re an IT pro looking to prepare for the weeks ahead, your priorities will be:
- Flexibility – That is, the ability to do traffic shaping and scale up or down quickly to accommodate rapid and frequent fluctuations in network traffic *;
- Multi-platform support – This means optimizing sites and managing data for web, mobile and point-of-sale transactions;
- Security – This will require constant awareness and a readiness to respond quickly to minimize potential damage; and
- Speed – Plenty of bandwidth bursting capabilities, and processing on demand will be a must.
That’s a tall order. But with the right partners and service providers in your corner, it’s entirely doable. So make sure you have not only adequate infrastructure but adequate support as well. With those lined up, managing this year’s holiday IT demands should be a snap.
Enjoy the season!
*FYI- Cavern’s blended (multiple Tier 1 providers) bandwidth product does not rate limit, and bills usage at the 95th percentile.