By Brendon McHugh

As an e-commerce entrepreneur, you no doubt spend a lot of time looking at new products to bring to the market, remaining streamlined and efficient, engaging with your customers, and gearing up for a huge Christmas shopping season! While consumers are still freaking out that supermarkets are already selling Christmas lights, as an online retailer, you need to start preparing now for the online shopping rush.

Through our partnership with Netstarter, we assist many online retailers of all sizes, and have done a lot of research into how e-commerce entrepreneurs manage their IT and hosting. We recently conducted a survey that found some startling facts:

  •     One in five retail websites experienced some downtime during 2011's big sales push
  •     45% expect holiday season sales to grow this year compared to last year
  •     Many still spend their own resources to manage this demand
  •     During the Christmas shopping rush, a single day of downtime could cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars

Online merchants often see their tech infrastructure as a “set it and forget it” part of their online business. This is especially true of merchants with hosted solutions like our e-commerce software running here at Rackspace.

For low volume, low traffic ecommerce sites, it is usually best to rely upon the infrastructure your SaaS solution is operating on and not stress on those details. However, for larger merchants that actively drive their online sales and create big traffic spikes, we recommend a close relationship with your e-commerce software and infrastructure team – especially during large promotion and marketing pushes before, during and after the holidays.

Ensuring 100% uptime is absolutely vital for an online store, particularly during peak periods. You can do this in the lead up to Christmas by increasing computing capacity, redesigning web sites and taking additional steps to address security concerns.

However, you might be a retail, branding, or marketing expert, without having the IT background to make this happen. Bringing in the experts to help manage the spikes has helped thousands of retailers grow and prosper during the online shopping boom.

Most importantly, it helps e-commerce entrepreneurs get on with what they do best – bringing value to shoppers.

A quick checklist to help get your hosting ready for the holiday season shopping boom:

  • Do you have the contact information and account information of your infrastructure team?
  • Are you finished with any major site initiatives (redesign, re-architecture, new product imports, new servers) and will they impact your holiday initiatives?
  • Have you corrected any past reliability or infrastructure issues to ensure success this holiday?
  • Have you planned for server resources and bandwidth needs?
  • Have you made any significant changes (new code, new servers or perhaps even new site features or third party integrations) since your last big push that may impact your holiday season? 

Brendon McHugh is the partner development manager of Rackspace.