So far in our optimisation blog series, we have discussed the top 10 attributes of an enterprise optimisation program, ease of use, and collaboration and how they all play into the creation of customer experiences for the purposes of testing and targeting. Now I’d like to address the basic fact that optimisation solutions deliver experiences to customers and for enterprise companies, this must happen at scale. While it’s easy for technology companies to define scalability in terms of product features, the only true measure of scalability is in the delivery of the customer experience itself. Let’s look at just a few of the ways vendors and customers can help you view the scalability of an optimisation solution.
Even from a technology view, scalability is not just about handling load well. The benefits of handling load without crashing need to be evaluated – it’s imperative that a system under pressure does not crash. At the same time, the systems must maintain performance, collect and save data, and manage the multitude of activity without dropping sessions and visitors, or delivering a bad experience that might skew results.
So, from the view of the vendor technology you license and use, what should you ask about?
- Uptime and availability. This is your basic “is it working?” metric. While uptime varies from vendor to vendor and may even depend on the SLAs you negotiate, Webtrends has had 100 percent availability for data collection and 99.999 percent report access.
- Peak traffic. Holidays, promotions and even simple announcements can spike the volume of traffic you see on your site or in your apps. An inability to handle peak traffic can result in slowed performance or even dropped sessions and lost data. For example, Webtrends handles 3 billion events per day and we’ve handled peak traffic for some of the largest brands on the planet during holidays, Olympic events and major promotions without data loss or lost sessions.
It’s all about the customer experience. Maintaining availability from the technology side does not necessarily mean the customer is receiving the intended experience. When it comes to scale, there is a horizontal aspect that enterprises should consider.
- Geography. Enterprise-grade optimisation needs to scale across the globe. This requires an infrastructure designed to deliver optimal experiences everywhere. Webtrends maintains six global data centres for data collection and uses redundant content delivery networks (CDNs) for data delivery to ensure global reach with local access.
- Response times. The measure typically applied to global experiences is a simple measure of how long it takes to deliver back to the browser for an experience to render. At last measure, our testing solution, Webtrends Optimize, had these geographic response times:
- United States: 61 milliseconds
- Canada: 237 milliseconds
- South America: 715 milliseconds
- Europe: 127 milliseconds
- Asia: 270 milliseconds
- Page load. Regardless of any other factors, the major measure of the scalability effect on experiences is how long it takes a page to load when an optimisation solution is active. Most Webtrends test-related HTTP requests complete in 75 milliseconds or less. Regions that are not optimally served by our CDNs and the globally distributed network of Optimize testing and tracking servers may see timings closer to 100-150 milliseconds in extreme cases with ISP latency introduced.
- Error handling. Despite best efforts, things can still go wrong. When they do, optimisation solutions should have their own version of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. Error conditions such as timeouts or missing content should not be inflicted upon customers. Instead, there should always be default content ready to display at the first sign of trouble to ensure customers have a path forward while the issues are resolved.
Reporting and Administration
Assuming you run a successful optimisation program, the volume of tests you run is likely to increase dramatically. In an enterprise, this may increase based on the momentum of a single program or the expansion of a program across lines of business or geographies. As our clients ramp from running 10-100 tests per month, so must the ability of the system to run the tests, collect data and provide access to the large volumes of data. The user interface of an optimisation solution needs to allow both the ability to navigate the multitude of active tests and the ability to load volumes of data for ad hoc analysis and segment discovery. This aspect of scalability to support the technology user is often overlooked and is a key component of your program success.
Wrapping It Up
Scalability is all about volume – wherever it is. Webtrends has decades of experience designing solutions to meet the needs of enterprise clients with billions of monthly visitors and sometimes hundreds of users within each organisation. Meeting the needs of both our clients and their customers ensures the efficient delivery of customer experiences and relevant insight into their behaviours and motivations.