When designing for critical applications, such as e-commerce sites or applications, where Performance, Availability and Security influence revenues, it is important to optimise at multiple points for success.
Location, Location, Location
With an ever increasing number of Data Centre locations and providers to choose from, it is generally possible to keep data and application systems within the same continent as users when working on a regional market, sometimes even within the country. Even for global applications, whilst the increase in legal complexity may introduce challenges for some markets, it is still possible to provide your users with a highly performant site.
One of the methods to achieve this is by using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to serve your site from multiple locations worldwide, which (given the choice available of providers) likely includes from a Point of Presence (POP) within the country or countries of your target market.
With a CDN in front of your solution, users will be directed to the CDN’s servers to access your website instead of the origin application servers. The vast majority of static users (those who browse the site without completing actions such as ordering, or searching) will be using the CDN’s servers for almost all of their content as this is stored temporarily within their servers. Any users who complete dynamic actions (such as ordering) will still communicate with the CDN’s servers, with those servers then completing the connection between the CDN POP and the origin application servers, which generally is a faster connection than end users directly connecting to the back-end servers over long distances.
Always open (for business)
Internet based latency is also only one part of the picture when considering performance for end users. Back-end infrastructure factors such as the capacity utilisation of the environment; the optimisations on the servers such as caching within the application stack and any network latency within the back-end environment can also directly affect performance for your users. Ensure capacity utilisation monitoring and proactive management combine to deliver for customers’ high expectations.
Availability of the system is critical to consider, as if the back-end systems are not capable of serving content back to your users, it does not matter where they are located, as users will not be able to browse your catalogue or place orders.
In addition to the network performance benefits of CDNs, providers often can assist with security improvements for your environment, most frequently via Web Application Firewall (WAF) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) services. With an increasing number of malicious attacks causing outages for retailers (causing loss of revenue) and data breaches (causing financial liabilities and reputational loss), organisations should ensure to be taking appropriate steps to safeguard the trust of their consumers (and potential customers).
Front of house performance
The front end performance of your web application can also be affected by choices made by your developers. Using recommendations from Google’s PageSpeed (or alternative frameworks) in web page design can differentiate performance perception for end users for two sites hosted in the same location. Performance optimisation frameworks such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) being spearheaded by Google coming out with e-commerce frameworks, improving performance for users also sits firmly in the hands of developers.
CDN providers can also help further with the front end performance, by automatically reducing the page size of your content without noticeable impact to end users and automatically enabling new web performance standards (such as HTTP/2) for you amongst other performance orientated optimisations.
Ready for sale season?
Although we’d all happy live in dream land, application environments need testing to ensure expected results are true. By performing regular performance reviews in all areas, including capacity management, front-end performance budgets and performance load tests, organisations can prepare for peak seasons prior to their occurrence. By completing tests in advance, appropriate remedy actions can be taken to ensure success for customers when it matters most.