The rush of holiday season is just around the corner - with Thanksgiving looming large in the US - companies are bracing themselves for the deluge of traffic in the lead up to the end of the year and the busiest shopping period on the planet.
In the US - and growing in the UK - Black Friday/Cyber Monday are on their way, while in the Southern Hemisphere it is the mad rush before the Festive Season and Summer holidays. Even with the most sophisticated planning and science around expected peak traffic and sustained loads, there will always be that one scenario you could not foresee ... or could you? What if you had the ability to accurately simulate the waves of traffic ahead of time? Being able to simulate the stress put on your systems allows for identification and rectification of any issues, before it is crunch time.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
When you're looking at your web browser or using your phone to contact banks and airlines, core data processing lies underneath the surface. Way below the user interface are processes relying on complex database interactions. Improper network configuration, service data settings, or data provisioning items (such as the number of allocated ports) are so subtle they can go unnoticed. Everything can appear to run well, even at up to 60 percent capacity.
It's not until you go above 60 percent capacity that you see response times begin to slow down. All of a sudden, a task that used to take one second now takes five. At full load, the entire system may keel over. Any underlying miss-configuration has the potential to cause a major issue that affects your business.
It is possible to prevent catastrophic downtime during the busiest time of the year. All it takes is a bit of practice and preparation ahead of time. Here are three easy steps your company should follow:
1. Rev Your Engines
Let's say you're going to participate in a car racing event. You wouldn't bring your car directly to the racetrack without any preparation at all, would you? If your car had only ever reached a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour, you would have no idea what to expect if it was supposed to reach 120 miles per hour on race day.
The same applies to data processing systems (and contact centers in particular). You'll want to run the system at max load to see if it's going to be able to stand up to the pressure. If anything does go wrong, you'll be able to fix it before you ever need to get up to full speed.
2. Watch Your Gauges
The best way to find out if your car is ready for the race is by looking at its gauges. You need to pay careful attention to how your data processing systems are performing by looking for any sign of weakness. While you're revving your engines, pay special attention to anything out of the ordinary. Any irregularities in your infrastructure can lead to a catastrophic failure and subsequent outage.
3. Perform Fire Drills
Don't just write ideas down on paper and think you've got everything covered. Practice in advance what you'll do when that inevitable outage occurs. It could be something that happens in your own internal data processing, your network service provider, or your cloud data processing service provider. Go through the motions ahead of time under real-world conditions. If you run through a few drills, you'll learn exactly what you need to do in order to keep the system robust. You'll also uncover problems you wouldn't have been able to foresee. Those 'unknown-unknowns' tend to emerge under pressure during the most difficult situations.
It really is possible to take your systems out for a test drive, figure out what's going to happen when they're under load, and get them properly instrumented so you can watch the situation in real-time. You can gain major insight by simply paying attention to what's going on under the hood. Once you make strategic corrections from this insight, you probably won't have the same downtime issues should the problem occur again in the future. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to run your staff through exactly what they'll need to do just in case something does go wrong. Practice is key—it really helps to keep everything running smoothly in your production environment.