Do you realize that it’s just over 2 months until Christmas? And while Christmas is many retailer’s busiest season, and it carries quite a few retailers through the slower months that follow, in fact many retailers see a bulk of their sales on 1 or 2 days of the holiday season.

That is because more and more retailers, especially here in Canada, take advantage of, and promote “Black Friday” sales. Black Friday refers to the day after American Thanksgiving, which falls on November 23 this year. They do this for a few reasons, not the least of which is to keep Canadian shoppers in Canada. To do this, Canadian retailers need to offer similar enticing deals in their stores to compete.

Following black Friday is a day traditionally big for online sales. Referred to as “Cyber Monday” because it happens on the first Monday following Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday has traditionally been one of the biggest online shopping days all year, in the US, and it’s quickly becoming the same huge sales day in Canada.

According to recent research conducted by Ebates Canada, almost half of Canadians (46%) say they shopped online on Black Friday in 2016, while more than 1/3 (37%) shopped online on Cyber Monday. That means almost 13 ½ million Canadians shoped online on Cyber Monday and over 16 ½ million shopped online on Black Friday. That accounted for almost $20 billion spent online in Canada on those 2 days alone!

With those numbers in mind, it’s easy to see why so many Canadian e-tailers are concerned with the American holiday. If you are one of those retailers, your next question should be: Is my website ready for the potential influx in traffic?

How to know if your site can handle the traffic

There are many things you can do within your own hosting environment to check and see if your site can handle the potential traffic spike you could see.

If your website has cPanel access or something similar you should be able to see how many resources are assigned to your website, and how many you are currently using during an “average” day.

When you log into your control panel area you should see an area relating to statistics that shows the resources your site has been allotted. Near this information is the important stuff. That’s how it appears for this website.

Look at things like bandwidth and file usage as these will be the 2 key indicators if your site gets hit with traffic.

Bandwidth refers to how much stuff you can send online. Email sending and receiving uses bandwidth, just as serving your site to visitors uses bandwidth. To know if you have enough bandwidth consider this:  If you read this article around the middle of the month, you should have used less than ½ your bandwidth. If it’s the day it’s been published, and you are already more than 3/4 of your limit, then you need to talk to your host about increasing your limit. Because you are likely going to exceed it this month, and the busy shopping season hasn’t even started yet.  In some cases you can also review your historic usage to see how close you’ve come to using it all over the past few months.

Next look at your “File Usage” to see where you are at. This covers things like emails stored on the server, cached pages, images and more. If you use a caching plugin you may see that this is quite high. If you exceed your file storage capacity your website may quit working. To fix this, first make sure you aren’t saving anything on your server you don’t need to. For example, if you can, download and store old emails on your computer and not your server. If you are using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird you should be able to turn on “auto-archiving” to archive old emails onto your computer, removing them from the server to free up space.

Next, clear your page caches. Sometimes caching plugins will store multiple copies of the same page, or older copies. By clearing your caches, you can free up a lot of space.

Finally, download and archive, and then delete old files, such as old images and old PDF files that you don’t need. For example if you have old copies of downloadable catalogs, consider removing them off the server to save space and also free up bandwidth.

If your site runs on a Content Management System system like WordPress or Joomla, look at your MySQL or database usage. The MySQL database is usually the primary source of your page content storage, so if your database fills up you won’t be able add or edit pages. There are routines you can run to optimize your database. You can search Google to find more information on how to do this.

In my next article I will explain a few more things you can do that aren’t specifically related to your website that you can do to ensure you are ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.