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Turbo-charge your website

01 Jul 2010

If you run an e-commerce site and you get overloaded with traffic, you might want to investigate ways to speed up your site’s performance.

This can be crucial if you run special promotions, eg: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s, Christmas. If that extra rush of customers slows your site down and they can’t make their purchases as fast as they wish, they’ll go elsewhere. It used to be called “the eightsecond rule”, but that maximum time a web user will wait for page content to load is getting ever shorter.

“The internet is fantastic,” says Ian Teague, country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Akamai (www.akamai.com). “It’s pervasive, it’s inexpensive for end-users to get connected, and it’s a great distribution forum. The challenge is, it’s not particularly reliable and consistent, and that’s a problem when you try and do business online.”

Akamai’s solution is called a dynamic site accelerator – a combination of servers and software that optimises a website’s performance. Teague calls it “platform-as-a-service”: the Akamai accelerator sits online between the website and the customers, delivering ‘mirrored’ content and taking the extra load from the site’s own infrastructure. For the end-user this means faster page download times, especially when traffic is heavy.

The owner of the website benefits through better customer retention and reduced abandonment, but there are other financial advantages too. Using the accelerator means less bandwidth is used and their ISP bill comes down. The site requires less server space, less firewalls, and fewer expensive upgrades. The Akamai platform can also mitigate against denialof- service attacks, which can be a nightmare for e-commerce sites.

Akamai has been active in Australasia for more than six years, but has seen a significant rise in customers in the last 12 months. It was recently appointed the exclusive content delivery partner by Ozsale.com.au, Australia’s first members-only online shopping club. Since leveraging Akamai, Ozsale has seen performance improvement of 89%, and achieved 100% availability in Australia and New Zealand.

As to what Akamai’s service costs: it varies according to the amount of traffic the platform manages for a site. There’s a one-off setup fee, then a charge per page view. Smaller businesses can generally get a tailored solution, especially if they deal through Akamai resellers. And of course, they can use the service only when they need it – when business is especially brisk.

 “If the organisation cares about the end-user experience, then there’s a good fit with Akamai,” says Teague. He expects more business as e-commerce sites increasingly add video content – always frustrating for users in this part of the world. Anything that reduces those buffering delays has to be good.