While watching the Mecum Auto Auction today I saw a commercial for a company that sells classic cars at “reasonable” prices. The commercial showed screenshots of the site and two things occurred to me: 1) The screenshots actually had decent prices, and 2) The design was pretty dated which made me suspect it couldn’t sustain a sudden surge of traffic. I was right. The sudden flood of visitors took down the website with what I would describe as a self-inflicted DOS. It would have been nice if the advertising company that put together the commercial had warned the site owner about the potential to break the site. If the advertising company did warn them, it’s another example of a webmaster being a webamatuer. A site that doesn’t work doesn’t make you any money.
There are a lot of great ways to stress test your website including several hosted solutions. One in particular that I like is called Load Impact. They allow you to test a lot of different scenarios including different user geo-locations and different levels of user interactions. You can even record your own session on your website and make the automation mimic your behavior. Remember, if 50,000 visitors come to the site and bounce that’s one thing, but if 50,000 visitors come and INTERACT with the site – well, that’s a different story. You’d better be prepared.