Promoting a Campaign? Make Sure Your Servers Are Ready for It

Two years ago I wrote about a Woot-like 1 deal a day site in Australia, Zazz, and how using shared hosting might have lost them business as the hosting server simply cannot cope with flood of traffic at that specific time of the day. Now Zazz is hosted at Rackspace, a premium managed dedicated server hosting company (which also recently became the parent company of SliceHost, whom I use to host this website). Good choice I guess, as I have not experience any more stability and performance issue from Zazz again.

Catch of the Day, another 1-deal-a-day site in Australia, is having its birthday bash today, and they are offering ridiculous deals like half-price Nintendo Wii and Samsung camera. A few days prior to the offer, they have even assure us that they have stress tested the server that it can take on the traffic. They too are in trusted hands at Rackspace.

And guess what? Even before it hits 12PM in Australian Eastern Standard Time, all I get is this message on their website:

CotD Overloaded

Ouch.

Since running OzBargain (a deal sharing/voting site for Australians) for the last 2 years, I have seen plenty of well planned and well advertised promotion campaigns struggle to keep up when massive unexpected traffic hits their site. Not just small retailers — JetStar, a budget domestic airline, is also often criticised to have its website completely unusable when the sale is on.

Looks like even the single box dedicated server is not going to solve those traffic hikes. Scalable cloud computing? Hey that sounds cool but do we have turn key eCommerce application that your average retailers can use, and they can hire average web developers/designers to get it up?

What would you do if Catch of the Day or JetStar come to you for consultation? What would you recommend?