Nicolle posted in: Business

16 January 2015 - Yesterday we saw another small British business fall victim to the ‘Kate’ effect, when the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in the £450 navy ‘Naomi’ shift dress by Madderson London.  British maternity line Madderson were totally unprepared for the honour and the rush on its website caused it to almost immediately go down.

As a UK provider of web hosting services I find this incredibly frustrating to hear. There’s no excuse for websites being unable to handle traffic, this is after all what cloud computing is all about, the ability to scale resources up and down based on demand.

Whilst Madderson couldn’t have predicted when the Duchess of Cambridge was going to wear their ‘Naomi’ dress and have the right stock levels in place to meet the demand, they could have had their website ‘live’ to sell out their maternity range capitalising on this unprecedented interest in their products.

So what should they have done to ensure their site could handle the traffic?

1.    Choose a UK web host with UK-based data centres. More than ever the location of your web host is incredibly important to the performance and security of your website. You want people to find you, and choosing a UK hosting provider will enhance your SEO. Make sure you look for a genuine British company who does not outsource any of their servers or staff.  Just as Kate Middleton flies the flag for British business, choose a British web host who can support your business as it grows and can also serve up your webpages to visitors more quickly.

2.    Know what you are getting. You are a small business, money is tight, it’s easy to choose the cheapest hosting package around, but do you really know what you are getting from your web host? The usual things like customer support, the resources you will get, reliability and uptime, and the location of the web host should all play a part.

However be wary of being ‘upsold’ an expensive package on the off chance that the ‘Kate’ effect might happen to your business. There is no point wasting money on resources you don’t need or use, especially as cloud hosting enables you to pay for just the resources you use and, when you no longer need them, you are no longer charged for them. 

3.    Make sure the provider offers 24/7 UK-based support. When things do go wrong you want to be able to speak with trained professionals, and you want to be able to get hold of them. Not enough value can be placed upon great technical support, and this means having access to that support at any time. Choose a web host who is upfront about their support levels, check their SLA (service level agreement) for their guaranteed uptime and trawl social media looking for any reviews on that provider.

4.    Add on active-monitoring. Some web hosting providers, like Memset, offer fully customisable services and have technology in place to actively monitor the availability and performance of your website which can ensure problems, like a spike in traffic, are identified quickly and dealt with.  

5.    Scalability. One of the primary advantages of cloud computing is its scalability.  If you’ve signed up for dedicated server hosting and you need immediate additional resources you do not have time to wait for your web host to scale up additional resources for you. Similarly, with shared hosting, you cannot afford to lose the fight for additional resources. With virtual or cloud-based hosting you can increase your dedicated available resources immediately, when you need it. This can save you a lot of stress and may even save some customers because the process is seamless. 

6.    Backup and Disaster Recovery. They sound like terms that only big businesses need to worry about, but even small businesses like Madderson London need to have these things in place. Cloud storage has become incredibly cheap so it shouldn’t be a financial burden to your business to not only have a backup service in place, but also hold a separate / mirrored copy of your website with another provider in case disaster strikes!

For Madderson’s sake, and any other British labels that specialise in maternity clothing, make sure you take a look at your current web hosting packages and ensure you have the capacity to ramp up resources during the remaining four months of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, on the off chance that she steps out in one of your dresses!