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Horror Stories in Web Hosting: Walmart, 2011

Just because you’re one of the biggest retailers on the planet doesn’t mean you’re immune from making mistakes. In Part 5 of our Cyber Monday Hosting Series we see that even Walmart can suffer the consequences if they’re not set up adequately for high traffic website hosting over the holidays. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to this retail giant in 2011.

Walmart's High Traffic Website Hosting failed on Cyber Monday

Source: TechCrunch

What happened?

Walmart tried to take their share of Cyber Monday a little early in 2011, by extending their door crasher deals to their website. As customers prepared to take advantage of Cyber Monday online deals at midnight on Black Friday, they were sadly disappointed. First, customers had to wait until 3am for the website to be ready. When customers finally got the opportunity to purchase the goods, they were met with broken down pages, errors -– “We’re having temporary difficulties”, login errors as well as empty shopping carts upon check out. When the users were forced to select their purchases again, they found that the products that they wanted were now sold out. Some customers even took to Facebook to voice their concerns only to find that their posts were removed by Walmart (don’t do this!)

Meanwhile at a store near you…

Violence ensued, 20 people were pepper sprayed, and 2 people were shot. Walmart isn’t a first-time offender — they also had problems with their site on Black Friday in 2006.

Why didn’t they have high traffic website hosting?

Once again, poor planning and testing. Luckily, the entire site didn’t crash completely, and they were able to keep the site up despite all of the problems, but it is obvious that they weren’t prepared for high traffic website hosting. They didn’t learn from 2006, so let’s hope they have learned their lesson from all of this and it won’t happen again. The good news for Walmart is that they were able to scramble and fix the issues prior to Cyber Monday.

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How much was lost?

Walmart posted  $418 billion in revenue during the 2011 fiscal year. No speculation on what this may have caused them, but judging by the numbers, quite a bit -– not to mention the possible law suits.

How could this be avoided?

Once again, this comes down to planning, communicating with the IT department / hosting provider and performing a load test and adjusting accordingly.

Learn from the mistakes of others and choose a provider that can ensure the best hosting for high traffic websites. Click here for an ebook that will help you make sure your provider is ready for Cyber Monday.

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