The current pandemic has changed the way we live and work in countless ways. Many people are now working from home, realising that they can be productive and effective when doing so and encouraging a number of organisations to look at the adoption of a more distributed workforce as we emerge from lockdown.
Gartner research with CFOs in March 2020 found that 74 per cent of those surveyed expect at least five per cent of their workforce who previously worked in offices to become permanent home workers. Other workers have been less fortunate and have been furloughed. When you factor in this, and the fact that most schools are closed meaning children are at home, there has undoubtedly been a huge increase in the number of people spending most of their time at home.
Hand-in-hand with this has meant people spending more time online than ever before. Online engagement and interaction have spiked hugely during the past few months. With a captive audience of people working from home, furloughed employees, home schooled children and people generally following the lockdown, consumers have been looking at more online content than ever before.
This has meant that some websites are creaking under the increased traffic and failing to deliver the optimum experience that consumers expect. This has only highlighted the importance for major enterprises to not compromise on their hosting and content platform.
Traffic spikes and digital content
Whether it is working from home, Joe Wicks workouts, BBC educational content, virtual happy hours on Zoom, reading up about The Tiger King, facetiming friends or something else entirely, we have all been online more than ever. News sites have seen more traffic than usual and media analytics group Comscore has estimated that online traffic, measured by unique page views, has increased by around 20 per cent on average across Europe and the US.
Major national news sites have seen an increase, but so too have local news sites. This is a sector of the media that has been struggling for years now, juggling challenges around how to effectively monetise their product as audience attention turns elsewhere. During the pandemic, as people look for updates about their immediate surroundings, this has changed, and many local news sites have seen traffic surges they would not have experienced in years.
When choosing a company to host their website, enterprises have a lot of considerations to weigh up. Managing spikes in traffic is one of the more important. Not only do enterprises have to ensure that their site stays up and can cope with the traffic, but consumers are also increasingly viewing digital content such as photos and videos, and in many cases are uploading this type of content too.
More than ever, content is at the heart of the digital experience. If a website does not deliver a seamless experience – for both its audience and any advertisers – then it is likely they will look elsewhere for an experience that better meets their expectations.
What to look for in a hosting and content platform
The past few months have made it even clearer than before that downtime is not an option for brands’ websites. A content platform should be able to guarantee 100 per cent uptime, no matter how many extra visitors it receives.
Enterprises should not be stung with a massive bill for that either. Flexibility of pricing is important, especially if a website does not usually have very high volumes of traffic but does occasionally experience a surge. Cyber Monday and Black Friday are good examples of this, where even sellers of niche products can see massive spikes.
Traffic is integral to the success of the internet, but too much traffic in a short space of time can slow speeds and even crash a website. If a website receives an unusually high amount of traffic in a short period of time, the server may not be able to cope, so the content platform must be capable of supporting different volumes of traffic.
Scalability is key here. A good enterprise content platform will have measures in place that allow for the rapid scaling up (and down) of capacity. Sometimes a brand will know in advance that more bandwidth is required, other times it may take them by surprise. Either way, pricing should be completely transparent. Many of the local news sites that saw increased traffic at the start of lockdown won’t sustain those numbers, so flexibility on the part of the provider is essential.
Keeping websites secure
The other main concern for enterprises and their content platform requirements is security. Cyber-attack is an on-going issue for brands to be aware of and the possibility of such an attack taking down a website or breaching customer details is very real and potentially very damaging.
Such an occurrence is not only hugely disruptive in terms of day-to-day operations but is also fraught with potential longer-term issues. A breach of customer data could lead to a significant GDPR penalty – Google was one of the earliest recipients of a major fine, with the French data regulator CNIL fining the internet giant 50 million euros in January 2019. There is also the stigma and brand implications of being known as an organisation that does not protect customer data effectively.
Any content platform needs to demonstrate that it has the tightest possible security measures in place. This includes proactive vulnerability management, with patching testing and anti-malware controls, as well as firewalls, data encryption and other features, all designed to keep a website safe, secure and fully operational.
IT infrastructure and content platforms should be a key priority for enterprises, even during more normal times. A smooth online experience is essential in modern business and consumers have shown they are only too willing to go elsewhere should their requirements not be met, affecting both reputation and revenue.
During the current lockdown, this has all been even truer. People are online more, engaging and interacting with different types of content and all the while expecting the websites to be fast, available and to function as they should. Choosing a content platform is one of the most important decisions an enterprise can make, and it is not something that any brand can afford to compromise on.
Jeff Mills, UK Country Manager, WordPress VIP