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Preparing your CMS to handle your company’s first surprise spike in page views

By JasonStCyr_1783373197 , Thursday, September 27, 2018

How running the right CMS elements in the cloud can help you capitalize on sudden demand

By Jason St-Cyr, Technical Evangelist, Sitecore

We’re living in the days of “going viral.” Consumers move faster than ever, and businesses need to be ready to respond to sudden demand the moment it arrives—or risk losing out to competitors.

The right endorsement from the right person can generate global exposure and cause unprecedented numbers of people to flock to your site, with little or no prior warning.

Take Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show in 2017—millions of people saw her backup dancers in Steve Madden boots and rushed online to order them. That can amount to more traffic than most people dream of in a year, all arriving in seconds.

Major televised events are only one piece of the puzzle. In the modern digital world, digital marketing is aimed purposefully at trying to create demand--and businesses need to be ready to scale up to meet sudden successes from the drop of a tweet.

Crucially, it’s not just about bearing the weight of enormous traffic spikes. It’s about being able to innovate, and capitalize on sudden demand at a moment’s notice. One great way to do that is to leverage cloud hosting for your CMS.

Reacting in the right way

Cloud hosts provide the flexibility to scale up your website infrastructure automatically and affordably. However, it’s also vital to think about what it can do for your content management system.

Capitalizing on sudden demand used to be focused on supporting more concurrent traffic on your site and monitoring the usage as visit counts rise. Now, businesses can use cloud hosting capabilities to take advantage of sudden interest and generate better value.

They can:

  • bring campaigns and promotions to market faster
  • adjust page layouts on the fly
  • spin up new microsites instantly
  • streamline the process from first visit to checkout at a moment’s notice

Cumulatively, this means marketers can put the right products and content in front of the right audiences, right when it matters most.

However, the way you host your website, CMS, and experience management platforms can also impact the ways you can respond to new opportunities.

Using the cloud intelligently

There are a few well-established models for deploying your CMS in the cloud:

      1) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

      2) Platform as a Service (PaaS)

      3) Software as a Service (SaaS)

However, it’s inadvisable to simply pick a deployment model and indiscriminately shift your entire CMS into the cloud.

Your individual usage of the different elements of your CMS may be a factor in deciding how you want to move to the cloud. Cloud hosting resources aren’t necessarily cheaper than on-premises resources, so you need to examine your specific usage to get a handle on costs. Some CMS functions are also better suited for cloud hosting than others.

For instance, by using on-premises infrastructure for content management functions, you can meet compliance requirements by keeping unapproved content in-house. However, you might want to run the content delivery capability in the cloud as it usually benefits most from the elasticity that the cloud offers.

Until now, this modular set-up has posed some challenges—not all CMS solutions can be deployed as we’re suggesting. Sitecore is one of the few CMS providers available that supports hybrid cloud deployment for content development and content management environments.

Dispelling some misconceptions

It’s important to note that there are a lot of considerations when it comes to choosing to run elements of your CMS in the cloud. We’re going to focus on three common misconceptions so that you don’t get caught unexpectedly.

      1) Your CMS isn’t automatically infinitely scalable

No system can scale up infinitely. They all have limitations. You will need to set up rules and auto-scaling policies to get the most from your system. The amount of work that this takes might vary depending on which of the three established models above you choose.

You also need to look at the architecture of your system so that you can best work to the limitations put in place by the cloud hosting. In some cloud hosting, it’s easier to add more resources by scaling out horizontally with additional instances (or copies) of your components, than to scale up vertically with existing components, so it’s crucial to examine which elements have limitations on horizontal or vertical scaling.

      2) Cloud resources aren’t inherently cheaper

We often think that cloud systems are cheaper (and that’s how they’re often sold), but the reality is it’s simply easier to scale them up and down with demand. You still need to be careful about overprovisioning your infrastructure.

When you define your scaling policies, make sure that you handle both scaling up for increase in demand, and scaling back down when the demand drops, so that you only pay for what you need.

The other thing to remember is that with cloud models, you are paying for more than just the RAM and CPU capabilities. For example, with a PaaS implementation, you don’t have to worry about the operating system updates and managing the actual servers anymore—that’s all managed by your cloud hosting provider. The same goes for scaling. With some cloud providers, you are only clicking a few buttons in the browser, but scaling out on-premises infrastructure is a different experience requiring more time and resources.

Make sure that when comparing to costs of an on-premises scenario, you include more than just the server costs, but also the time from IT staff who manage that hardware on an ongoing and on-demand basis.

      3) Cloud resources aren’t inherently more resilient to disruption

Underlying all this cloud hosting are very real servers in very real data centers. So the real world still applies, and your uptime will depend largely on the resiliency you build into the deployment. Choosing the right hosting providers makes all the difference—ones that have backups for when things go wrong, failover centers, and the capacity for when things go right.

One big advantage of cloud hosting is that when there is an issue with the resources under your cloud host’s responsibility, you don’t have to be up at 4 a.m. moving server cables around and trying to replace busted fans anymore. You offload that responsibility to somebody else so you can have that peace of mind.

Making the most of opportunities

When life throws you the opportunity for a huge spike in traffic, you want to seize it with both hands without worrying about whether your infrastructure will hold up. After all, those chances don’t come along every day.

Infrastructure deployment models are just one criteria on which you may be evaluating content management systems. For others, check out “The definitive guide to choosing a content management system” today. You can let me know what you think about it – you can reach me on Twitter at @AgileStCyr.

 

Jason St-Cyr is a technical evangelist at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @AgileStCyr

Get the ebook: The definitive guide to choosing a content management system / Read it online.

Blog series, post 1: The right and wrong reasons to invest in a new CMS

Blog series, post 2: Three key pillars of building the business case for a new CMS

Blog series, post 3: 10 editorial features your content creators need in a CMS

Blog series, post 4: How to mitigate risk during a CMS implementation

Blog series, post 5: Preparing your CMS to handle your company’s first surprise spike in page views

Blog series, post 6: Preparing for AI-driven customer experiences

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