Scale Fail.

I’m a skier. In fact, I’m pretty obsessed with skiing. And while I’m as happy as anyone that this harsh winter is finally fading into a beautiful spring, I’ve got one more ski weekend planned. After all, I consider the sport to be the season’s one redeeming quality, and will take advantage of it until the very end.

For the past couple of years, I’ve bought into the, let’s call it, “outrageous” season pass deal my favorite area ski resort has offered. The first year they did this, the pass was $199 for a limited time, which given the size of the mountain really was a ridicu… er, outrageous bargain. The next year was a little different. The pass cost $199 for the first day it was on sale, but then went up $5 per day every day through the course of the sale. Uh, okay, kinda gimmicky, but whatever. Purchased on the first day of the sale, $199, done.

This year, they did things a bit differently. The pass cost $209, but only for the first 2,500 sold. Then the next batch of 5,000 cost $219, and every pass after that was $229 until the sale was over.

Can you predict what happened? On the first day of the sale, I went in promptly at the start time of 8:00am to make my purchase. I successfully got the passes into my cart, and then… nothing. The server, under the weight of thousands of ski bums like myself, came to a grinding halt. The resort had managed to successfully create a demand its web hosting infrastructure couldn’t hope to accommodate. Two extremely frustrating hours later, I was finally able to make my purchase. (Truthfully, I had given up. Props to my husband for actually completing the purchase.)

It didn’t have to happen this way. While many hosting providers advertise being able to handle sharp surges in traffic, it’s not something that I would want to rely on if I were running a business. Sure, there are times you’re not going to be able to prevent traffic surges (remember all the dotcom Super Bowl ads of the Internet boom?), but for the most part these kinds of situations are completely preventable.

When considering an online promotion, give some forethought into how you structure it. Timed promotions are great, but don’t create a “race” to your site, potentially causing a server-crushing logjam. It’s the online equivalent of getting trampled at a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale.

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Jeb Emami is a Marketing Strategist at RP3 Agency with an affinity for building commercial relationships that help organizations realize and capitalize on their product and service differentiators.

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