Most small businesses would jump at the chance to part of a global release of a Google Doodle. But what happens when you only have a few days to make sure your business and website can withstand a HUGE spike in traffic?
Although you might want to kick up your feet and celebrate your moment in the sun, that’s obviously going to have to wait until after you’re done racing around frantically behind the scenes to make sure things go off without a hitch.
At least that was the case when one business learned they might experience a 400x increase in web visits.
Sworn to secrecy
When Moog Music first found out they were going to be the feature of a Google Doodle to honor the late Asheville, NC inventor Bob Moog on what would have been his 78th birthday, they only had four (as in less than a week) days to prepare.
To make the situation even more challenging, they had to keep the announcement a secret until the doodle went live in Australia (the first place it would be seen during the global launch). They weren’t even able to tell the team at PurpleCat.net, their local web hosting provider, it was a doodle until it officially went live.
You must be kidding?
“The first time they told me they were expecting as many as five million hits in one day, I really thought they were kidding” said Peter Brezny, PurpleCat.net’s founder. “Businesses run special promotions all of the time and think the response is going to be bigger than what it actually is, but they still don’t usually expect to see that much traffic” he added.
Since Moog couldn’t share any details, it took a while for Peter to believe they were actually serious. When the full scale of the request finally sunk in, he realized he needed to get ready and that he didn’t have a second to spare.
Sleep is definitely going to have to wait
Given the quick turnaround, they didn’t have enough time to order any new hardware. Luckily, they already had an extremely powerful server on standby which they migrated Moog Music’s site to. Over the next four days, they worked around the clock to tweak and tune their backend systems.
To ensure Moog was able to keep their website online once the clock struck midnight in Australia, they had to clone their Virtual Private server several times and build new systems to manage separate aspects of the site’s needs. All told, Peter estimates he and his coworker slept about 15 hours over those four days.
To the Cloud!
In addition to the backend tweaks PurpleCat.net was able to make, they also reached out to CloudFlare, makers of cloud-based performance and security tools, to spread the heavy load over a much, much larger infrastructure (think virtual traffic cop).
“You never know when an opportunity like a Google Doodle is going to impact your online presence” said CloudFlare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince. “If your site goes offline during a peak time, you could lose your search ranking and potential sales.”
Once the dust settled
Thanks to the hustle, hard work, and responsiveness of the teams at Moog Music and PurpleCat.net, they were able to stay open for online business on a day when their site generated more than 15 million hits, all while maintaining 99% uptime over a 24 hour period. Impressive results and something to celebrate—that is, after they all catch up on some much needed sleep.
Whether your small business is featured as a Google Doodle, you make a guest appearance on the Today Show, or you just experience a huge spike in traffic once a year around a specific holiday like Groundhog Day, you should be able to actually enjoy the experience--not worry about whether your website is going to completely implode at a time when you need it the most.
What about you?
How are you preparing behind the scenes to make sure you could survive a Google Doodle or other moments in the spotlight?
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Moog Music and Google]