5 Steps for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Readiness

Ho. Ho. Ho. It’s that time of year again. Seriously. It is.

It’s way too late for April Fools but it’s definitely not too early for ecommerce holiday readiness planning. In fact now is the perfect time to get your ecommerce house in order well before the planned lockdowns of your critical web based applications.

Balance is important in any holiday ecommerce planning. On the one hand, you obviously couldn’t and shouldn’t make too many significant changes to your ecommerce environment too far into November. But you also need to actively seek out and evaluate new processes and new tools that will improve your customers’ and your employer’s experience during the upcoming holiday season. Making too many or too few changes can land you in hot water. So for starters, perhaps we can agree that a reasonable goal is to avoid earning hall of shame status at http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/

Christmas ecommerce downtime can have multiple root causes but can often be traced back to

1)      Sins of Omission: Lack of proper planning for the anticipated burst in traffic on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the entire holiday season and

2)      Sins of Commission: Really frustrating situations where you were trying to upgrade, trying to improve, trying to modernize but sure enough, “changing this breaks that”. You don’t want to spend the holidays remediating one problem after another. Do you?

Rudolph-the-Remediation-Reindeer-from-OrcaConfig-245x300

The focus of the remainder of this article is to help you with the latter – those seemingly innocuous, “routine” changes to your ecommerce app and all of the related apps, databases and configurations in your ecommerce ecosystem.

So what’s a DevOps team to do?

Life is tough enough dealing with “unknown unknowns.” Let’s not make it any tougher by failing to plan for the “known unknowns”. So here are a few keys that >we have picked up over years working with e-tailers and retailers who prioritize Christmas ecommerce:

  • Blackout Periods: Make sure your automation tools know you’re in a blackout period. Whether you use homegrown tools, commercial automation tools, or a combination thereof, users should not be allowed start automated jobs against Production systems during the holiday blackout without approval.
  • Role Based Access: If your automation tools don’t support blackout periods (and probably even if they do), now is the time to double check that the role based permissions in each tool are set up correctly and adhere to your organization’s guidelines. The most well intentioned engineer can accidentally select Production as a target environment for an automated job, and if they have permission to do so, it can cause an accidental catastrophe during a business critical time.
Calendaring in Orca
RBAC in Orca
  • Restrict Direct Access: Most organizations have an initiative to lock down all their Production servers from direct access, and if you don’t it’s time to add it to the docket. An engineer logging directly into a server to make a seemingly innocuous configuration change to one application can easily bring down another application in the process. Now not only do you have an outage, you have no way of knowing why the outage occurred and who caused it. Click here for our PCI compliance white paper.
  • Monitor Changes, Not Just Performance: Don’t just monitor the performance of your Production systems, monitor everything you possibly can including configuration changes. Especially if your engineers still have direct access to Production systems, it is imperative you have the tools and processes in place to monitor for configuration changes to the environment. Better than monitoring compliance is enforcing compliance!
  • Experiment Now, Well Before Show Time: All year you’ve been going to conferences, chatting with your colleagues, and in general hearing about all the new tools you should try out. Now is the time to do it! Plenty of vendors offer free trials and demos of their solutions. Make good use of your time now by evaluating new time-saving, error-proofing solutions before the calendar catches up with you.
See how Orca controls configuration management for applications, databases and middleware including blackout periods, RBAC and change monitoring. 
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