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Marketers should communicate more with server managers to prevent service failures

Aug 2005

A study called the Internet Campaign Effectiveness Study in the UK found that a lack of communication between marketing and IT is one of the key reasons why serious site failures occur. Site failures might mean slowing down of responses or errors in processing due to timeouts because of heavy traffic.

The study puts the blame heavily on marketers, suggesting that a lack of planning and goal setting coupled with a lack of understanding of the processing power required to service a block of visitors is creating unnecessary stress on existing processing power. I think this is quite unfair because it is notoriously difficult to gauge with any degree of accuracy the number of people who visit a site during or after a marketing campaign. Yes, a seasoned marketer using conventional media can estimate the degree of generated interest based on reach and persuasiveness of the message. But even if he were to supply those figures to a server manager, the manager wouldn’t really be able to tell how much processing power would be required to service the expected visitors. For instance, can anyone tell how many requests a thousand online visitors will make in one hour? And what kind of requests would those be? Database requests or static page requests?

I think the key problem occurs when marketers engage in a heavy burst campaign and don’t tell server managers to have extra power on standby. In a burst campaign, a great deal of effort and money is spent to create an attention explosion toward a website. It would therefore be unreasonable to expect zero server failures with the resulting burst response. Adequate contingencies can always be prepared, but only if the manager is expecting to have to make them.

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