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The road to success for online businesses in 2017

2016 was an eventful year to say the least. From political surprises such as Brexit, to the wave of cybersecurity attacks that took down some of the biggest websites, the unprecedented changes that took place last year were felt by everyone – and businesses were no exception. But how will the events of 2016 impact content delivery over the next 12 months, and what do businesses need to do to ensure their website stays online in 2017?

Trading outside of the EU 

Following the turbulent year in world politics, some UK businesses will seriously consider changing their focus in 2017. Uncertainty about the single market means online businesses will put an emphasis on markets outside of the EU, such as China or Russia. Free from EU restrictions, many might assume this tactic would be straightforward. But targeting these markets will require businesses to consider factors they have never had to consider before. National firewalls and strict unfamiliar regulations can stand in the way of content reaching these markets.  

Both China and Russia have complex internet landscapes. Russia’s new data laws now require personal information from Russian users to be stored on servers in the country. Whereas in China, the biggest challenge faced is overcoming the Great Firewall - the government’s unique filtering system that shields citizens from certain types of content. For companies operating outside of these markets, this makes the delivery of online content into China and Russia somewhat difficult.  

If you are set on going online in China, it is essential to first obtain the Bei’an ICP license to comply with local regulations – because without this, your website will simply be blacklisted. Secondly, companies must understand the types of content blocked by the Great Firewall, as this will slow down or block your website. 

Our research has found that Chinese users expect a website to load in 5 seconds, but the average European website in China takes just over half a minute to load. As a result, users give up and may not return to the website (due to concerns over security, or simply going to a native competitor instead).  When expanding into new markets, it is important that you fully understand the territory you are entering. It is crucial to seek advice about local legislation, and find a partner that can help deliver content that actually reaches your new target market.

The need for speed

According to Gartner, 5.5 million new “things” were set to be connected each day in 2016, and by 2020, there will be almost 21 billion connected things in use around the world. With even more smart devices set to be in use next year, from phones and tablets to the rise of smart home devices like connected kettles and smart heaters, the web apps used to connect and access these devices must be fast to be effective. Consumers will be less forgiving of slow performing websites and web applications, as the best performers become the new benchmark.

From our own research, we know that a slow loading website leads users to think your website is insecure, untrustworthy and unreliable. We also know that poor performance translates to other negative impacts on the brand’s reputation and determines if a user returns to the website. Ensuring your website or mobile app is accessible is therefore critical. 

Furthermore, as events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday increase in popularity in the UK, many ecommerce websites will need to put extra measures in place to cope with sporadic spikes in traffic volume.

The dreaded DDoS attack

2017 will see the rise of bigger and more complex DDoS attacks. From 2015 to 2016, the biggest DDoS attack traffic jumped by 180 per cent from 21Gbps to 59 per cent. 2016 also saw the rise of DDoS attacks exploiting the cloud. Online businesses will need to do more to ensure they are prepared for a DDoS attack next year – even if they are part of an industry not traditionally the victim of such attacks. If the last year has taught us anything about DDoS, it is that anyone can be a target. The market therefore needs to be educated in order to ensure everyone is prepared. 

Having the right technology in place is crucial to adequately mitigate against increasingly sophisticated attacks and their consequences. Protection services can automatically respond to unusual traffic hitting your website and respond to attacks before your website is compromised. A combination of automated technology and human intelligence is best to ensure your website is protected against a unique attack. 

Lessons learned

Many lessons were learned in 2016. It is no longer a case of ‘if’ a DDoS attack happens but ‘when’ it will happen, and any type of business could be at risk - taking precautions will ensure your business isn’t the next victim. Moreover, businesses that react positively to political changes such as Brexit, as well as the demand for better user experience online, can have greater confidence that 2017 will be a truly successful year.

Alex Nam, Managing Director, CDNetworks EMEA
Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock