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How to prepare your infrastructure for high traffic — the 5 Ps of peak season performance

by Corey Gelato

The journey to success for your organization’s peak season starts with ensuring that your digital storefront is ready for high traffic. Whether your annual peak season occurs during the traditional holiday season or an industry-specific busy period, preparations should start with stress-testing and protecting the infrastructure of your e-commerce site.

Below is Adobe’s guide to preparing for peak season performance, which we’ve dubbed “the five Ps of peak performance.” Implementing these recommendations requires minimal upfront time investment and can save you from unexpected downtime and poor performance when it really counts.

We recommend laying the groundwork at least three months ahead of your most critical calendar dates to ensure a smooth ramp-up to meet peak sales traffic. If you’re working with a partner or systems integrator (SI), this overview provides a handy guide to discuss how they plan to prepare your site for peak season.

1. Predict your traffic and order volume

When it comes to your organization’s most critical time of the year, a data-based approach should rule your planning. The four key benchmarks below (easily reviewed via Adobe Commerce Business Intelligence) serve as a guide to making useful predictions about your site’s upcoming peak season traffic:

  • 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 (2022)

  • 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 your team gathers the data outlined above, we recommend the following steps:

  • First, calculate expectations for the coming peak season by applying last year’s calculated percentage growth against your site’s running daily and weekly averages for traffic.

  • Then, 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 there is a large numerical gap between the two results, discuss with your team how to adjudicate the differences. The strongest approach is to plan for traffic volume at the higher of the two numbers, as it is better to be overprepared than risk performance issues during peak demand.

Another methodology is to identify your typical peak sales hour and review the load it places on your infrastructure — such as memory, CPU, and disk space. Multiply these metrics by three to calculate a reasonable approximation of the resources required to handle a heavy peak traffic incident. If your current resources do not meet this tripled metric, your site may require additional resources to meet the threshold of predicted traffic.

And remember to give some consideration to how economic conditions and global events may impact sales later this year within your industry. COVID-19 prompted a major consumer shift to buying online the past holiday seasons and created supply chain uncertainties, and both serve as examples of ground-shifting events that can quickly change the dynamic of your digital storefront. It’s wise to keep yourself informed about your own industry’s trends to better predict this year’s peak season traffic levels.

2. Prepare your site accordingly

Increase server capacity or database capacity Now that you have completed site load testing and determined areas requiring additional capacity, the next step is to plan how to meet those performance needs.

One possibility is to add flexible capacity to cover the periods when you expect higher traffic. Alternatively, if your site routinely runs at a high load percentage, you can still opt to increase capacity to both meet your peak season needs and give your organization more breathing room as you grow.

Additionally, you may consider adding Web Nodes to meet the resource requirements exposed in the load test. If you’re an Adobe Commerce customer using our cloud infrastructure, you can request surge capacity for temporary server increases with the directions in our knowledge base article. If you’re interested in discussing a more permanent increase in CPU, disk size, or memory, reach out to your Adobe customer success manager (CSM).

Use a content delivery network

Another way to meet infrastructure needs is to use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can transform your cache by creating a global cache network of your static media files, HTML, JavaScript, style sheet files, and much more to decrease load and improve response times. You have many CDN options — but if you’re using Adobe Commerce, you have access to the Fastly CDN. We suggest reading this developer guide for setting up Fastly, as well as our most recent configuration fixes article, which highlights Fastly’s stale cache option to increase site speed further.

Update your caching configuration

You can also start resolving performance needs by reducing the number of hits on your server through better caching configurations. Along with our best practices on cache management, we also recommend taking advantage of full-page caching, which improves response time to speed up your Adobe Commerce site.

3. Put resources to the test

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

4. Practice good habits

Optimize images for a fast e-commerce site Images are critical to show off your products, but when improperly managed, the resulting image cache can overload your servers and lead to slower page loading speeds. We recommend that merchants use 72 dpi images that are WebSafe. You can find more information in our article on resizing product images, and Fastly users can learn more about Fastly Deep Image Optimization in our configuration fixes article.

Update to the latest ece-tools package

Ensure that your cloud environment uses 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 400%, and adding self-service capabilities to enable our merchants to be more productive. See the ece-tools release notes for details on the recent improvements.

Don’t let deployment get you down

It’s important that visitors can shop uninterrupted during the holiday season, but you might need to push changes to your production environment during this time. Did you know you can configure your project so that the customer experiences zero downtime during these deployments? One of the best ways you can practice responsible cloud infrastructure management is to configure Adobe Commerce for zero downtime deployments. Applying these configuration best practices ensures that your customers engage with a live site, regardless of your deployment routine.

Back up your e-commerce site

Employ proper backup 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 time if something goes wrong with a deployment. Because Adobe Commerce environments deploy as read-only files, a snapshot restoration brings your environment back quickly. See the Adobe Commerce Developer Guide for details on creating and using snapshots.

Monitor your performance

You have many options when it comes to choosing well-designed monitoring tools to keep an eye on performance. We recommend Adobe Commerce customers who use our cloud infrastructure management system take advantage of services like New Relic to monitor site performance.

Additionally, customers can take advantage of Observation for Adobe Commerce, a New Relic nerdlet. This application provides a quick snapshot of your overall site performance, as well as options to drill down on information regarding component services, process states, and infrastructure issues.

Keep in touch with your Adobe teams

We always recommend that you log in to your Adobe Commerce account and verify the contact information listed under Account Settings. Also, make sure that your Adobe SAM has information about your organization’s key technical contacts. If you’re working with a solution partner, discuss their support plans for your holiday period so that everyone can execute the plan should anything unexpected arise. These steps help us to alert the right people in your organization about any security or technical issues when they occur.

5. Protect your site (and your customer data)

Upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Commerce

As hackers become more sophisticated, it is critical that Adobe Commerce merchants are running the latest software to stay secure, especially as we head into peak season. Bad actors know that businesses are distracted during busy periods and often use the noise of the holidays to pull off their biggest frauds of the year. If you haven’t upgraded your site to the latest version of Adobe Commerce, we recommend you do it before peak season. You can start now by reading our lifecycle policy and using Adobe’s Upgrade Compatibility Tool.

Even when you’re not up to date, stay safe

Security patches allow businesses to keep up with the latest security trends, even if they are not using the most current version of Adobe Commerce. We recommend installing security patches as they become available. The Quality Patches tool can help you access and apply patches so your site stays up to date.

Visit the Security Center to learn about the latest security patches as well as best practices.

Take advantage of the Adobe Commerce Security Scan

Use the Security Scan tool to monitor all your Adobe Commerce sites — including progressive web apps (PWAs) — for known security risks and malware. This tool runs over 21,000 security tests and provides insights into the real-time security status of your store. You can also use the tool to run security checks automatically on a daily or weekly schedule. The security scan output lists any identified issues and provides best- practice guidance to resolve them.

Need more guidance?

If you’d like more content on preparing your site for peak season, we also recommend the following resources for further reading:

  • Adobe Commerce video tutorials on Experience League

  • Best practices for upgrading

  • Overview of the upgrade process

Corey Gelato is a senior commerce strategy consultant at Adobe.

Julia Fish also contributed to this article. Fish is a lead digital engagement strategist at Adobe.

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