The festive period might be winding down – we’re all feeling the effects of celebrations as we head back into the office. However, for CFOs there was likely no rest as Christmas and January sales represent one of the busiest periods of the year for retailers. Bargain hunters are still flooding websites for their last-minute shopping, creating high volumes of website traffic.
Whilst this is undoubtedly great for business, the collateral damage associated with high volume traffic can cause headaches for CFOs and have consequential and residual effects. Why? Because high volumes of traffic are prone to overwhelming servers, making them vulnerable to both outages and cyber-attacks – such as DDoS attacks.
The problem is not rare either – Uptime Institute’s 2021 Global Data Centre Survey found that over 60% of businesses have lost over $100,000 as a result of cloud outages. In an age where shoppers expect a smooth, seamless online shopping experience, there is no tolerance for downtime among consumers. CFOs need to ensure that their systems are ready and can handle high traffic or else they will face the consequences of an outage. We’ve narrowed these consequences down to four to help put the issue into perspective.
Consequence one: Competitor wins
In an age where online shopping is so dynamic and popular, there is no tolerance for downtime, even for a matter of seconds. Customers parting with money do not want to experience websites crashing. Even downtime for a matter of seconds can be detrimental for a sale. Hyve research found that 1 in 3 customers would simply move to a competitors’ website after less than 30 seconds if an outage occurred. For this reason, CFOs need to implement the appropriate steps to ensure outages are minimised, as no one wants to lose out to the competition.
Consequence two: Low search engine rankings
Regular outages can negatively affect where a company will rank on Google search engine results. Websites that often experience downtime will load lower, because code errors can stop search engines from analysing websites. This means fewer website visits, which means fewer customers and more competitor wins.
Consequence three: Negative brand image
Outages can tarnish a business’s reputation, and cause customers to lose faith in a brand. It can even damage the most loyal of customer relationships. Hyve research found that 57% of digitally native millennials say that website downtime represents a negative impression of a brand, and for baby boomers that number is still 33%. Even a short amount of downtime can damage a company’s image, regardless of how established the business is and how big its customer base. The mainstream intolerance for downtime is something all businesses need to understand and be aware of.
Consequence four: Cyberattacks
The holiday season comes with greater stakes for financially motivated attackers. Opportunistic hackers are aware of the stresses retailers are under during this busy period and will attack during this time as they know CFOs are more likely to cave to demands. Common schemes used are DDoS attacks, whereby the hacker will overwhelm the server with traffic to purposely cause an outage. To prevent these attacks, CFOs need to invest in DDoS defence systems such as firewalls, VPNs and SSL certificates.
Why should CFOs be asking for scalability this Christmas?
We all know that the cloud has revolutionised how businesses work, and one of the winning characteristics of the cloud is its scalability. Scalability means that during periods of heavy traffic, businesses can scale resources on demand to cope. Equally, during quiet periods, businesses can scale back to save money and reduce waste e.g. scale back storage or RAM size. As a result, the cloud enables companies to both run efficiently and save money.
It’s also important to remember there are a variety of cloud options available to suit different business needs. CFOs should plan by looking at the available options and then communicating with their cloud providers to ensure IT systems are up to scratch during busy periods such as the holiday season.
However, it is also important to note that despite best-laid plans, outages are likely to happen somewhere at some point. For example, Uptime Institute found that the number of outages is only continuing to grow with 80% of data centre managers reporting some form of an outage within the last three years.
What’s important, therefore, is how a CFO manages and learns from an outage; Uptime Institite’s same report also found that companies who repetitively experience downtime have 16x higher costs than those who don’t. With this in mind, businesses should consider investing in outage management. This includes system backups and an overall disaster recovery plan to shorten outages and mitigate their effects. CFOs should also consider outsourcing management to help scale cloud resources to lessen the burden on in-house IT teams during the busy holiday season – after all, every second matters.
Not just a Christmas wish
As the world increasingly moves online, so do the demands of consumers. Online shopping is no longer a seasonal event that takes place during the holiday period. Instead, it is a continuous and ever-growing part of the retail landscape, with customers shopping online all year round.
This has implications for the way that companies do business. Gone are the days when businesses could get by with a single on-premises server that was able to handle all their traffic during the holiday period. Today, companies need to have a cloud solution in place that can scale all year round to keep up with the continuous advances of technology and growth of online shopping.