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How to Prepare for a Successful Cyber Monday

Top five tips to better understand what is happening at the end-user level

Cyber Monday commerce sales are expected to reach $2.2 billion this year, according to the Adobe Digital Index 2013 Online Shopping Forecast, making the Monday after Thanksgiving one of the most important days of the year for online retailers. Adobe also estimates that Cyber Monday sales would be up about 14 percent to the aforementioned $2.2 billion.

With online retailers betting a large portion of annual revenue on this widely anticipated mega-shopping day, it's not enough to just plan for just server, storage or network capacity planning based on anticipated traffic for Cyber Monday, or any other high traffic day.

Too often companies approach Cyber Monday from an inside-out perspective, with a network-centric mindset but then miss the big picture. In short, companies must break down the silos between server, storage, networking, software, etc., to better understand what is happening at the end user level.

Here is a list of Top Five tips to prepare for a successful Cyber Monday or other high traffic days:

1. Know what resources you have and use
Establish a baseline understanding of your resource (compute, storage, network, facilities) utilization and performance being delivered today for your critical user-facing applications, regardless of whether these applications are running on-premise or in the cloud.

2. Plan for and align your resources and capacity to the business
To be successful you need to ensure that you have enough compute, storage, network, power, and floor space capacity to meet anticipated business demand and service levels. Perform "What if" scenario planning to evaluate your options such as refresh/replace hardware, virtualize, leverage converged infrastructure, move to the cloud, etc. Make informed decisions about how best to support business KPIs such as orders per minute and revenue as well as service level targets such as response times and availability of existing and new applications.

3. Monitor from the customer perspective
You need to measure how your site is performing for any user, from anywhere, no matter where your applications are running - on-premises or in the cloud. If customers can't access your application, or if performance is too slow, they can get frustrated and take their business elsewhere. By better understanding your customers' experience, you can detect performance issues sooner and focus on fixing the problem before it impacts revenue and your business' reputation.

4. Assume that something will go wrong and monitor accordingly
Monitor in real-time - resource utilization, systems availability, application performance, user behavior, SLAs and business KPIs. Even the best laid plans don't consider all possibilities and if you don't know what's happening in real-time, you won't be able to make critical adjustments when needed to avoid costly outages or slowdowns.

5. When something does go wrong, communicate proactively with your customers
If a customer knows that you are aware of and are working on an issue or processing their request, they will be more forgiving.

If physical retail is all about "location, location, location," online retail is all about "uptime and experience." Careful planning, monitoring and communication goes a long way in handling the peak traffic of Cyber Monday and other high traffic days.

More Stories By David Williams

David Williams is a vice president of Strategy in the Office of the CTO at BMC Software, with particular focus on availability and performance management, application performance management, IT operations automation, and management tools architectures. He has 29 years of experience in IT operations management.

Williams joined BMC from Gartner, where he was research vice president, leading the research for IT process automation (run book automation); event correlation and analysis; performance monitoring; and IT operations management architectures and frameworks. His past experience also includes executive-level positions at Alterpoint (acquired by Versata) and IT Masters (acquired by BMC), and as vice president of Product Management and Strategy at IBM Tivoli. He also worked as a senior technologist at CA for Unicenter TNG and spent his early years in IT working in computer operations for several companies, including Bankers Trust.

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