The network-centered reminders can keep e-commerce site user-friendly, responsive, safe and resilient to hiccups and cyberattacks.

Traditionally, every year’s Christmas trade landscape is heralded by Black Friday on November 27 in many countries.

Since the end of October, Amazon and other online retailers have already trickled the first bargains early on. With the ‘Black Week’ starting on Monday, November 23, the next round of sales will begin, until the bargain hunt finally comes to an end with Cyber Monday.

By the end of these few days, a large part of the end-of-year shopping errands will have already been completed. Retailers, especially those that had quickly gone digital, could face problems due to network congestion and security breaches.

So, with the expected flood of shoppers beyond the Black Week until the early part of 2021, what can e-commerce players do to keep their network and websites stable and deliver the best customer experience? Sascha Giese, the Head Geek of network monitoring solutions firm SolarWinds, offers the following network tips …

  1. Understand the limits of IT
    Retailers should establish at least rudimentary network-forecasting and capacity planning systems. Such measures will help IT managers to adapt to the increased demands on their network, understand the limitations of their technology and ensure their systems do not buckle during the busiest time of the year.

    Sudden network failures and poor performance can be avoided with better planning of network requirements, for example in terms of bandwidth. Use so-called telemetry data from previous end-of-year periods, such as web traffic data or transactions, can offer some useful guidance for preempting network overloads.

    Of course, high visitor numbers or sales on a particular day or week indicate online customers streaming to the website and using the network. This provides a good basis for allocating network capacity and resources for those days. In parallel, one could start collecting other useful data, such as traffic at the payment gateway or the use of customer devices. This should provide a more diverse database on which to plan network capacity.
  2. Network monitoring and market intel
    When it comes to keeping the state and performance of a network stable, monitoring performs two critical functions: First, it allows IT to keep an eye on the metrics and respond to any potential problems. Second, it gives the IT team a clear picture of recurring problems or difficulties on the network; collecting data on such problems helps to improve prediction and planning for future challenges.

    Network management software offers a wide range of configurable monitoring windows, tools, and plug-ins. Network solutions for monitoring hybrid and cloud-based IT environments can then provide a detailed view of the processes on the servers. How many purchases are in the shopping cart and how many shopping carts can be processed per minute? To make the online shopping experience of their customers as smooth as possible, retailers can also use monitoring solutions for digital performance. These can proactively address issues such as server congestion, website unavailability, or extended load times before they affect the customer’s purchase.

    Last but not least, monitoring solutions can be used to keep tabs on competitors’ websites. How does the price structure of popular items change? Do other online shops lower the prices of certain products in response to stimuli? Surveillance in this way helps businesses to keep an eye on movements in the market and react particularly quickly to fluctuations in the business-critical year-end campaigns.
  3. Cybersecurity has top priority
    Access to the network from a wide variety of mobile devices and increased use from the home offices pose major risks for data protection and are a gateway for hackers. Private devices may not have sufficient malware protection, and unprotected IoT devices may yield hackers direct access to the network.

    Therefore, strict access- control policies and modern monitoring practices should be established to ensure customer data and IT systems remain secure.

    Strict policies and an effective user access rights management system can help keep track of which and how data is used within the network. In the event of possible compliance violations or cyberattacks, these processes can be disclosed.
  4. Make provisions for future Christmases
    The advantage of well-implemented network forecasting and planning is it tells you what works on the network—and what does not. This is because not only the network is controlled, but also the technology supporting it.

    For e-commerce retailers that have had to quickly deploy various third-party digital solutions as part of the digitization process, most of the new tools or solutions have not yet been exposed to the common holiday-season network stresses. In general, the more a digital solution is used by several retailers and companies, the more common problems become.

    Imagine, for example, a third-party payment gateway slowed due to a high volume of simultaneous transactions. Without proper monitoring, it is almost impossible to detect the problem before it affects the quality of a retail service. And without the correct telemetry data collected during monitoring, similar events cannot be anticipated and prevented from recurring.

As customers increasingly trade in their shopping trolleys for digital shopping carts this year, keeping the customers experience monitored and safe for all parties involved will undoubtedly keep both sales and cybersecurity levels healthy.