Cyber Monday is just around the corner to officially kick off the 2008 online holiday shopping season. Retail organizations' e-commerce Web sites need to be prepared to handle the surge in online holiday shopping traffic. To help ensure their e-commerce Web site is ready, Knowledge Center contributor Mark Sarbiewski offers IT professionals an e-commerce Web site readiness checklist.
Last year, Cyber Monday attracted 72 million shoppers, who spent a grand
total of $733 million in one day. With consumers looking for the best possible
bargains, some experts are predicting even more online shoppers this year.
While the holidays may bring the online shoppers, poor e-commerce Web site
performance or security vulnerabilities can generate significant losses to a
business, including loss in sales, shopper dissatisfaction and site
abandonment. And in today's economy, businesses cannot afford to lose a single
Will your e-commerce Web site be able to handle the sudden increase in
traffic as the holidays approach? To find out, IT professionals should check
this e-commerce Web site readiness checklist before going live:
Task No. 1: Analyze traffic patterns and proactively prepare for growth
Analyzing last year's online holiday traffic patterns will help identify
peak dates and times in advance. Does your e-commerce Web site peak on
weekdays, weekends or holidays? Will it change over time? How large was
last year's holiday peak? What growth rate do you anticipate? Plan your site's
capacity so that it can scale to the predicted volumes with a reasonable
Task No. 2: Validate functionality
Can your e-commerce Web site's visitors easily order products and check
shipping status? Can they find out about specials and promotions? Are there
places where visitors are getting stuck and abandoning your site? Make sure
everything functions as planned with quality management software and, if
necessary, improve the usability to increase the likelihood of obtaining
Task No. 3: Thoroughly test ERP and CRM
For your ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM
(customer relationship management) systems, test all the pieces individually.
Validate that all Internet gateways, servers and e-mail servers are working
properly and at their peak performance. If the front end is bringing in the
business, can your back end execute it? Just as important, however, is to do
robust end-to-end testing of the business processes that these systems are
meant to support.
Task No. 4: Validate the security of your connections, passwords and
Is your e-commerce Web site secure? Make sure your site is safe by testing
for security vulnerabilities with application security software. Be sure to
encrypt credit card numbers and other private customer information. It's also
important to make sure customers can log in easily. Check this by testing the
log-in scripts and making sure that customers can easily obtain their passwords
if they have forgotten them or if they change them periodically to ensure
security. And finally, validate all user input to prevent against the most
common hacker attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection.
Task No. 5: Test from both inside and outside the firewall
Check the functionality of your system from both inside and outside your
firewall to ensure that it is working correctly. Testing inside the firewall
can reveal many performance issues, but only by testing outside the firewall
can organizations be assured that all performance bottlenecks have been
eliminated from their Web-based applications.
Task No. 6: Validate partner performance
Can your partners match your speed or will they stall your business? These
connections are often overlooked because they work today and worked yesterday.
But do not forget that a new front end or different business mix can make
Task No. 7: Validate capacity
How many visitors can your e-commerce Web site currently accommodate? Will
it be able to handle the holiday rush? Find out with load testing software.
Determine the expected increase in user loads. What hardware or software
modifications can you make to increase your site's capacity? Perform
diagnostics to help tune your configuration-that alone could double performance
Task No. 8: Monitor all business processes from the user perspective
You are probably already monitoring your entire infrastructure (boxes,
routers, CPU utilization, memory, disk space and I/O rate), but you should tie
it all together by monitoring from the user perspective with end-user
monitoring software. Focus on the transaction speed, throughput and how real
users traverse your site.
Task No. 9: Monitor the site's traffic 24/7
Observe your e-commerce Web site's activity as it happens because learning
of problems immediately gives you the opportunity to react quickly. Real-time
monitoring software will alert you when upcoming problems are approaching a
level that will start to affect your customers. Always remember that it's
better to be notified when an issue is about to occur than after things have
already blown up.
Task No. 10: Anticipate problems and fix them on the fly
There is one thing you can always count on with your e-commerce Web site: Problems
will happen. Be prepared for them and make sure you are able to fix them as
they happen. Use monitoring software to create an early warning system and make
sure everyone follows the right processes if problems arise. You need to have
the ability to correct performance problems live without having to shut down
Sit back and relax
Now that you have tested and tuned every single aspect and component of your
system, and have established robust monitor and alerting capabilities, you can
rest assured that you have done everything you can to ensure the proper
functioning of your e-commerce Web site. Enjoy the online holiday shopping
Mark Sarbiewski is senior director of products for HP Software. Mark joined Mercury Interactive (now
HP Software) in 2003. Mark is responsible for the design and implementation of
all product marketing and go-to-market activities for the Applications area
within the BTO portfolio. Prior to joining Mercury and HP Software, Mark was VP
of marketing for InterTrust Technologies. Before InterTrust, Mark was a
principal consultant for five years with Pittiglio, Rabin, Todd & McGrath,
the leading management consultant firm for technology companies. While there,
he worked on more than a dozen major consulting engagements, ranging from
strategy development to process re-engineering.
Before his stint as a consultant, Mark spent four years with IBM,
where he was an application software engineer. Mark received his B.S. in computer
science and mathematics from the University of California,
Davis, and earned his
MBA from the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School
of Business in 1993. He can be reached at email@example.com.