This CNY, keep your websites powering on

  • Monitor from multiple locations; if it’s not up everywhere, it’s not really ‘up’
  • Don’t believe everything your traffic driver team forecasts, but do go talk to them

This CNY, keep your websites powering onCHINESE New Year (CNY) is a hectic time in many Asian countries, where road traffic and website traffic soar. For IT departments, coping during CNY can be challenging.
As much as we’d like to trust that websites can administer themselves through high traffic periods, a website’s strength can waver.

Below is a list of three tips for sustaining websites throughout the New Year period, so that any possible issues can be avoided, and so that your CNY can be a peaceful one … at least on the IT front.
1) Test the impact of changes to your website from the end-user’s perspective before the big event.

  • Make sure you have alerts enabled on all related devices first, then tune your alerts down as you determine what are typical precursor events to major problems. Get a baseline of normal performance, so you know when a change to your website has a performance impact.
  • Monitor your app from multiple locations. If it’s not up everywhere, it’s not really ‘up.’
  • Monitor the individual steps of key transactions to identify where problems occur (DNS vs page load time, etc.). Your webserver may be sitting there at 10% CPU during 30 page loads because it’s waiting on the database to complete a login or shopping cart step. Without details you might assume it was a webserver problem.

This CNY, keep your websites powering on2) Ensure adequate capacity for influx of user requests.

  • Virtualize everything you can. Adding servers to a CoLo (co-location) rack is never an option during an unexpected spike. Cloning VMs (virtual machines) however is relatively easy.
  • Use your monitoring systems’ historical data capture and visualization features to do 95th percentile load planning, taking into account daily, weekly and seasonal trends and plan accordingly. As mentioned in tip No 1, you need to do this for each tier of the application (webserver, application server, database server, etc.).
  • Don’t believe everything your traffic driver team forecasts, but do go talk to them. Does anyone really like talking to the marketing team? No. Can they tip you off to an extraordinary promotion that’s likely to overwhelm your servers? Yes.

3) Monitor availability and performance of the supporting infrastructure.

  • Monitor everything you can, even adjacent components on the periphery of your application. Often your app shares resources with other applications. Don’t assume all other apps play well with others. Monitor shared storage, visualization infrastructure, database, rack, core and firewall networking components and the WAN (wide area network) links to the outside world.
  • Be prepared to push your IT or hosting provider for details to force troubleshooting (“{component x} is maxed out” is not an acceptable answer). For bandwidth, what’s the traffic mix? Is my app really filling the pipe or is there non-essential traffic in the way? For hardware resources, what are the details of service restarts? Where can you examine detailed event logging? If it’s not tracked, why not?
  • Ensure you have a maintenance window communication plan in place, and understand the interdependence of the components of your application. How many times has what appeared to be a minor and unrelated system update unexpectedly affected your production application? Group logically connected components in your maps and reporting in your monitoring solution.

Jennifer Kuvlesky is the systems management product marketing manager for IT management software company SolarWinds.

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