It’s not exactly news that Steve Jobs died last week, but when he did he had a bigger impact on Internet traffic than any event in history. At one point in the aftermath of his death, according to a post on the Computer Business Review blog, Twitter was exceeding an astonishing 10,000 tweets per second.
To put that into perspective, Osama Bin Laden’s death triggered half as many tweets per second. As you would expect, news sites like CNN and Washington Post were also flooded with traffic as people tried to find out more about what happened. And CBR reports that even ecommerce sites like Amazon and eBay got a traffic surge as people searched for books and merchandise related to Jobs.
When you are monitoring the performance of your own web site, you probably don’t take into account news stories having an impact on traffic, but as Jobs’ death has shown, a big news story can cause a traffic spike when you least expect it.
Who would have thought that ecommerce sites like eBay and Amazon would be affected by Jobs’ death, but the fact is both of those sites had increased traffic in the wake of the news as people wanted related merchandise.
It just goes to show you have to be ready for anything and your services have to be in place to deal with spikes whenever they happen. Amazingly, Twitter, which has been famous for its Fail Whale – Over Capacity signs seemed to be able to deal with this onslaught. Maybe the Data Center folks have learned how to prepare for such an unknown, but inevitable spikes like this one.
The question is how do you prepare for such an unknown? How can you be sure you have the systems in place to deal with these types of traffic surges? You probably can’t prepare for every unknown surge, but you should be ready to deal with the ones you can control.
If your an ecommerce company and you’re introducing a popular new product, set up some additional server space to be able to scale to accommodate that traffic. These days, it goes without saying, you’re going to add additional capacity for say, Black Friday, so why not have some at the ready for those special times like what happened last week.
Nobody is going to get upset if you took reasonable precautions to ensure your web site stays running at its maximum ability, but you will probably hear it if there is a surge and you didn’t have anything in place to deal with it.
Common sense is the rule of thumb here and you have to balance your particular business’ requirements with whatever contingency plans you put in place. You don’t want to overplan and have too much money tied up in resources you rarely use, but neither do you want to leave yourself unprepared for a moment like last week when Steve Jobs died and the Internet went crazy.