With the holiday shopping season well underway, there is talk of recent ecommerce site failures and anticipation of how these failures will impact online businesses during this season’s shopping frenzy. Nearly one year ago, Internet Retailer reported on major site failures experienced during Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) – two of the busiest shopping days of the season. Often, these outages are caused by the high volume of site visitors during peak shopping times and servers that can’t keep up. Or, they may be caused by natural disasters, power outages or software glitches. When entire sites go down there is tremendous impact: business is lost, customer loyalty suffers and a brand’s reputation is seriously compromised.

While site failures are extremely costly for online retailers, there are also individual aspects of a site that can lose functionality and also impact the online experience for shoppers; for example, site search, the shopping cart, product videos, etc. For these functions, it makes sense to entrust your site to a hosted services (or SaaS – software-as-a-service) provider so you can offload that traffic to a 3rd party – particularly one that has built-in redundancy in its architecture and implemented business continuity policies, to protect you from these types of failures. For example, SLI Systems has implemented redundant servers in multiple data centers around the world to ensure that if a server goes down for any reason, another will step in to take over.

The Internet Retailer article from last year indicates that according to web performance measurement firm Gomez, Inc. the top 50 retail sites have an average of 97.60% availability, and an average site response time of 2.25 seconds (Gomez also says research shows there is a 2-second “standard” – referring to the length of time the average person will wait).

Like most retailers, you’re probably turning up the volume on your marketing efforts to drive as much traffic to your sites as you can in the coming weeks. But are you certain your site will be able to perform – and respond quickly? It’s not too late to offload your site search to a 3rd party expert if that’s an area you have concerns about or haven’t looked closely at. Have questions? Feel free to comment below.