E-Commerce Tip: Identify Single Points Of Failure

The busy holiday shopping season is only a month away and the National Retail Federation forecasts 12 percent growth in online sales over last year.  Sounds like good news, doesn’t it?  It is, if you can keep your virtual doors open and sales flowing around the clock. Recently, Rackspace offered up five tips to prep your e-commerce site for the holiday crunch. We invited some of our e-commerce partners to provide a guest blog post looking at those tips and offering further advice.  

Gorilla Group, an award-wining e-commerce solutions provider and Rackspace partner, wants to ensure you have a successful holiday season. Here, Igor Rafalovsky, Director of Technology at Gorilla, shares ideas gained over his 15 years of IT Management experience on how to prepare for the holidays by reducing infrastructure-related risks associated with single points of failure.

It is very important to have enough server capacity to handle the onslaught of holiday shoppers. Many online retailers move to larger servers with more memory and CPUs to prepare in advance for Black Friday.  But what if hardware failure or software glitches bring down the server that your online store runs on?  Do you have a plan to quickly restore your services when every minute of downtime translates into a huge loss of revenue? Beyond the initial impact, damaging customer trust can have long term effects on your business.

Large Internet retailers rely on the concept of High Availability (HA) to keep their stores open in the face of unexpected glitches and malfunctions.  The HA concept is quite simple and is based on eliminating as many single points of failure as possible within a reasonable budget.

The simplest HA approach is to ensure a redundant infrastructure. This means your server has at least two network connections, two power supplies connected to different electrical circuits and two mirrored hard drives to prevent data loss if one of them suddenly crashes. The server itself is still a single point of failure though, and if it crashes, so does your online revenue.

To safeguard against this, Gorilla Group recommends a multi-server configuration for an optimally performing online store. While there are additional costs and more complexity in setting up this HA solution, it’s definitely worth it.

In this setup, your hosting provider can arrange a pair of redundant firewalls with two network connections to the Internet, redundant load balancers to direct traffic to multiple web servers and replicated database servers to handle the traffic load.  When set up properly, this HA architecture can eliminate virtually every single point of failure within the online store.  Together with a solid data backup strategy, the multi-server HA approach will reduce your infrastructure-related risks, keep your site up and ensure your shoppers are satisfied.


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