How to bulletproof your website
Test, don’t assume anything — and test again
By Esther Shein
November 28, 2011

Computerworld – ‘Tis the season to begin ramping up online shopping activity, and for retailers that means doing all they can to ensure their websites are up, highly available and able to handle peak capacity. Looming in many IT managers’ minds is the cautionary tale of Target, whose website crashed twice this fall after it was inundated by an unprecedented number of online shoppers when the retailer began selling clothing and accessories from high-end Italian fashion company Missoni.

“We are working around the clock to ensure that our site is operating efficiently and delivering an exceptional guest experience that’s reflective of Target’s brand,” said a Target spokesperson in an email, but declined to give specifics on the measures the company has taken.

One company’s hardship is often another company’s gain, and those that face well-publicized failures tend to become de facto role models, retail industry watchers say. Take what happened to Best Buy in 2005: Its website experienced what some have called a catastrophic holiday failure and customers were unable to make online purchases. That same year, competitor Circuit City saw a huge spike in traffic, says Dave Karow, senior product manager of Web performance and testing at Keynote, a firm that monitors and tests mobile and Internet performance.

“There’s nothing like falling flat on your face to give you the conviction to do right thing going forward. That was an extremely effective wakeup call for Best Buy,” he says, adding that the retailer now conducts several load tests throughout the year.

Web retailers should be shooting for 99.5% availability, otherwise “they’re not cutting it,” Karow maintains. “Ninety-nine percent is not acceptable because if you achieve that, you’re still one percent unavailable.” That has a significant impact since it means more than one percent of potential transactions didn’t occur — and likely won’t going forward, he says.

This holiday season, more than ever, Web retailers need to be prepared for the onslaught, since a growing number of consumers will be using mobile devices to shop. A report recently released by mobile ad network InMobi claims an estimated 60 million mobile users are planning to use their devices to shop during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday weekend, with over 21 million intending to make purchases from those devices.
Prepare, test and review

Online shoe retailer Zappos conducts load testing early in the fall to ensure its site stays up and highly available during the holiday season, says Kris Ongbongan, senior manager, technical operations and systems engineering. Every year they follow the same procedure, he says: estimate load.

“We have our finance and planning departments give us sales predictions and we take a multiple of that to see what traffic we can absorb and test to that,” typically beginning in September, Ongbongan says. That gives them enough time to make changes and add any necessary infrastructure.
Website uptime

Retailers should go through their transaction volume testing and validation in the September/October timeframe and then code lock their systems until about January 15th, suggests Michael Ebert, a partner in IT Advisory Services at KPMG. During that period, “retailers typically freeze their systems … and don’t do updates unless absolutely necessary to avoid performance issues,” he says.

Another practice the very large Internet retailers tend to employ is having distributed networks in order to route traffic to make sure transactions are balanced around the U.S., Ebert says. That way, if one site gets too busy the customer will automatically be routed to another. “So make sure you have multiple points of your Internet presence around the U.S.” A data center “may be slow to respond, but at least I’m up and running,” he adds. “There’s always a percentage of business you never regain if someone leaves the site.”

Another metric that retailers need to be concerned with is latency, or the response time for how long it takes a page to load and for the payment transaction to be completed. “I expect we’ll see some latency concerns” or other problems during the check-out step during this holiday season, predicts Greg Girard, program director, IDC Retail Insights. That’s because there are throughput bottleneck issues at the gateway to the credit card processing network, he says.

“The micro-economic problem is that it costs money to maintain capacity that you utilize only at the peak time, which is only very infrequently during the year. It’s an economical tradeoff you have to make.”
Over-provisioning via cloud

For a lot of smaller online retailers, it’s hard to justify the return on investment for increasing the capacity they need to handle 12 hours of peak usage on one day of the year, says Girard. “That’s where cloud comes into play, and we’re seeing some retailers adopt cloud strategies. That’s really going to progress going forward.” Retailers will be able to get additional peak capacity at an incremental cost by moving to the cloud, he says.

Zappos’ Ongbongan says they handle all network functions internally and do not use cloud providers. “We have instrumentation around every transaction point on the website, from search pages to product detail pages to checkout,” he says, “so we can look at each individually to see if there’s any slowness or problems in any of those areas.”

But no matter how prepared you are, problems can still occur, especially when you outsource to third-party vendors. “Nothing is fully bulletproof, so really what [online retailers] need to try and achieve is fault tolerance,” says Mike Gualtieri, a principal at Forrester Research. He recalls a retailer he worked with that uses an external credit card service that went down one year on Cyber Monday, so the company’s orders couldn’t be processed.

“Their e-commerce system is in-house, so they had planned for volumes — searching and shopping the site — but they have a service level agreement with a credit card service processing service that said, ‘We can handle that volume.’ So they did all the right things for their own systems and planned for the [increased] volume on Cyber Monday, but were held hostage by this particular provider,” Gualtieri says.

He says he recommended that the retailer re-architect its site so if the payment processor were to go down again the company could still collect the order and payment information and process payments at a later time. That’s particularly useful for small retailers, he says, who may not be able to invest in technologies like an online shopping cart and have to rely on third parties for the functionality.

Regardless of their size, Gualtieri says, retailers need to examine every component of their systems and assign a confidence level between one and five. “Every online retailer should look at their entire ecommerce architecture and all the components they use: shopping cart, products search, account registration–whatever they have–and rate their confidence level.

“Don’t assume that everything will go right,” Gualtieri says. “Assign a confidence level and don’t fret too much, but have a mitigation strategy and backup plan.”
Optimize for traffic

Among the lessons Karmaloop learned during the 2010 holiday season were that its content delivery network configuration was not optimized for the traffic it was going to experience on Cyber Monday, says Joseph Finsterwald, CTO at the online retailer of alternative street fashion for men and women. “We worked with our CDN vendor Akamai to come up with a configuration that was a better fit for us,” he says. The firm also discovered problems with parallel processes on the network and synchronization issues when servicing up Web pages, which was corrected by rewriting code.

Revenues are growing 50% to 70% year over year, Finsterwald says, so Karmaloop is using Keynote’s LoadPro Web load-testing services to ensure its site is not strained. Because its CDN network was not optimized to handle this level of traffic in past years, the site experienced “frequent” network outrages, he said, although he declined to provide specifics.

“It gives you peace of mind that we can come up with a reasonable facsimile under peak load,” Finsterwald says. “Load testing is an inelegant science; you’re trying to simulate user traffic, but you’re integrating a lot of third-party components.” If a test is done on a quiet day, a third party may be able to scale to handle that, but all bets might be off when they’re handling multiple clients.

This year, when conducting load testing, Karmaloop scaled its systems to a high enough load to trigger a problem for the vendors to address proactively. “We saw performance degradation with some of our vendors,” says Finsterwald, “so we’re following up with them to make sure they’re doing what they need to do.”

Keynote’s Karow concurs. “Load testing done right has to be a very close representation of what real users are going to do, so it takes real thinking about what people do and the various systems involved and are you stressing those systems?”
Talk to your stakeholders

Also critical to the success of keeping systems up and highly available is making sure everyone is on the same page. “Everybody needs to be involved in the planning and predictive process,” says Zappos’ Ongbongan. At Zappos, that means everyone from brand marketing to financial planning to warehouse staff is involved in planning for peaks in site traffic.

One thing his group learned from talking with other departments was that their peak traffic typically occurs in mid-December, as opposed to right after Thanksgiving or right before Christmas.

Forrester’s Gualtieri says it’s a definitely a problem when a marketing group doesn’t let IT know what it’s doing that might cause site traffic to spike. He says he worked with a large Midwestern insurance company that spent a couple of million dollars on its first TV ad during a football game. When the ad aired, the company’s site went down “almost instantly,” because the company’s marketing department didn’t tell IT it was running the ad. “So IT had no idea they were going to expect 500 times the normal amount of traffic,” he says, and they ended up wasting their money on the ad.

Despite all the proactive measures retailers may be taking, Gaultieri predicts there will still be “some high-profile outages” this holiday season. “One, two or several will happen. I also think a lot will happen that you’ll never hear about … I don’t think this problem is going to go away.”

Although companies are becoming savvier about bulletproofing their sites, crashes will inevitably occur due to continuous changes made to enhance the online shopping experience, he says. “You can’t just put a site up and have it be static; there are lots of moving parts and it creates complexity, and there’s fallout.”

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at

Website-bulletproofing tips

* Test early to make sure there’s enough capacity and that loads are balanced correctly.
* Make sure traffic predictions are vetted by enough internal stakeholders so you’re not guessing what your peak might be.
* Check everything from application servers to your network firewall, all the way down to the speed of your Internet connection — and check more than twice.
* Have contingency plans in place in case you exceed your traffic expectations. One way to do that is by removing the functionality that takes a lot of processing power or bandwidth, such as dynamically displaying customized information for each visitor.
* If you’re going to take your site down for required maintenance, make sure there’s another way for people to get to it.
* Make sure an e-commerce site is secure, specifically against DDoS attacks.
* Freeze all maintenance and any non-critical code changes in the November/December timeframe.
* Make sure every component has a risk-mitigation strategy so there is a plan in place if something on the network goes down.
* Communicate with marketing and other relevant business units to make sure you understand their promotion and other plans.
* Consider a move to the cloud to handle seasonal peak capacity.

One-Way Switch for Light Paves Way for Practical Photonic Computer Chips
‘Optical diode’ could help make commercial photonic chips a reality.

By Zeeya Merali of Nature magazine

A one-way system for light rays could allow optical computer chips to overtake their standard electronic counterparts. The new device should eventually help to improve the speed of data processing and ease Internet traffic.

Optical, or photonic, chips use light rather than an electrical current to carry information. State-of-the-art optical chips already transfer data at rates of around 10 gigabits per second–more than 100 times faster than the best electronic chips, says Liang Feng, an electrical engineer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

“That's the noticeable difference between a Google search you carry out today taking a few seconds to load, and a search being done in the future in less than a blink,” he says.

For more than a decade, engineers have been working to make commercially viable optical chips, but to do so they need to come up with the optical equivalent of the electronic diode. This allows current to pass in only one direction, preventing back-scattered current from interfering with other components and the forward signal.

Such 'optical diodes' have been created in the past, but they either use materials that are incompatible with silicon or rely on magnetic fields to block backward light1. “Unfortunately, you can't stick something magnetic near your computer or it will disrupt it,” says Feng.

Guiding the ray

Feng and his colleagues have now created a silicon waveguide–a slab with a rectangular cross-section measuring 200 nanometers thick and 800 nanometers wide–that channels light in only one direction. Standard waveguides allow waves to pass through in both directions, but Feng's team realized that adding extra layers of materials with different reflective and refractive properties, at specific points along the tunnel, could break this symmetry.

“It has been known for a long time that adding layers to the sides of waveguides can affect forward and backward motion, but it was tricky to calculate the particular structure that would manipulate the light just as we needed,” says Feng.

Using calculations and computer simulations, the team hit on the right materials and pattern for a waveguide that would allow a forward-moving light wave to progress symmetrically–so that its peaks and troughs remain parallel–while disrupting the backward wave in such a way that its successive peaks and troughs deviate from the parallel. The solution involved adding a number of sinusoidal-shaped bumps of silicon, 40 nanometers thick, along one side of the waveguide, and similar bumps, made of a layer of germanium sandwiched with chrome, on the other side.

The team monitored the passage of light through the waveguide using a near-field scanning optical microscope and confirmed that a narrow beam of light successfully passes through the waveguide forwards, but that the wave's symmetry breaks down when traveling backwards2. The next step is to incorporate the waveguide into a device that filters out the asymmetric light. “We hope to have this completed soon,” says Feng.

Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical scientist at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, says that the work is an “important step for building optical chips”. But he adds that it may be another 15 years before a full range of optical components, including laser sources and optical amplifiers, are ready to be integrated together: “Only then can we talk about using photonic chips in real commercial products.”

This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on August 4, 2011.

BlackBerry Bold 9900, 9930 Will Run BlackBerry OS 7

Internet v/s God

May 23, 2011

Internet v/s God
by Rahul
Mon May 09, 2011 12:53 pm

1. God knows everything. Internet knows everything.

2. God can’t be seen, only its effect can be. Internet can’t be seen, only its effect can be.

3. God is everywhere. Nowadays Internet is also everywhere.

4. Pursuit of God needs time/money/dedication. Same with Internet.

CONCLUSION: Internet is God!

Is Your Office a Pain in the Neck?
from OfficePRO magazine, August/September 2004

Doing a little homework and using ergonomic products can keep you healthy and productive

Office work can be a pain in the neck, literally, if you let it. Ergonomics (fitting the product, task, or environment to the person) can be the cure. It’s also the preventive measure that will waylay such pain from the start. That’s why you don’t want to miss out on some often inexpensive solutions to rid yourself of the aches and pains, eye strain, fatigue, and more that can accompany long-term office work.

Check out these products that support ergonomics in the office and are available from most office supply retailers:

1. Adjustable chair. “A chair is the foundation of the workstation,” says Anne Kramer, president and CEO of Ergo Works Inc. ( in Belmont, California, which provides on-site workstation evaluations, ergonomic training, and ergonomic products. An adjustable chair that can be customized to fit you is an investment in your long-term health, especially if you spend most of your working days seated for extended periods of time.

Sitting for long periods of time, poor seated posture, and a poor quality chair can mean backaches, circulation problems, and more. Your chair should adjust to allow you to vary your posture throughout the day and to appropriately meet your work surface height and accommodate different tasks being per-formed, says Kramer. She says to look for four basic features in a chair that either already fits you or adjusts to do so. They are pneumatic cylinder height, seat pan, back angle, and back height.

2. Monitor riser. When office manager Peggy Catron CPS of London, Kentucky, bought a monitor riser five years ago, she intended to use it to create a storage space for stowing her telephone message book in the nook it created between her monitor and desktop. The ergonomic benefits were an unexpected bonus, she says. “Having the monitor on a higher level helped me reduce eye strain and maintain better posture while I’m seated,” Catron says. “I also don’t require a monitor screen anymore because the new height reduced the glare from the lights.” Monitor risers, also called monitor stands or monitor lifts, allow you to elevate a low-sitting monitor so that the monitor top is correctly placed at your eye level.

3. Footrest. “When you’re sitting, you want your feet firmly supported either on the ground or a footrest,” Kramer says. “If you have to elevate your chair to get to the right working height and then your feet don’t touch the floor, you need a footrest. Otherwise, your feet dangle, putting pressure on your thighs and [negatively] impacting blood circulation,” she explains. “Plus, a footrest is a comfort. It kind of helps you push yourself back into the chair and encourages better seating posture.”

While Kramer prefers a rocking footrest because it allows her to move her feet versus a constant static foot posture, she says others prefer firm footrests. When shopping for footrests, you’ll see ones that offer vertical height adjustment and angle adjustment on fixed or gliding platforms.

4. Keyboard tray. Also called keyboard platforms, keyboard trays often attach to the keyboard arm. Keyboard platforms or arms usually can be attached by bolts to the underside of your desk. An ideal setup has features that allow you to raise and lower the arm and platform as well as rotate them sideways. Also, trays often can be pushed under the desk when not in use and pulled close when you’re typing. Using a keyboard platform and arm in conjunction with your chair height helps you to have the proper keyboard and mouse height and keying posture. That means your upper arms hang straight (or perpendicular to the floor) and close to your sides. Your bent elbows and straight forearms will be at, or slightly beyond, a 90-degree (right) angle when keying. Your wrists are in a neutral (straight) position.

5. Mouse accessories. “You want a keyboard tray that has a wide enough platform for both the mouse and the keyboard,” advises Kramer. “You don’t want your keyboard down low and then have to reach up on the desk to use your mouse.” Both keyboard and mouse should be on the same level and both should allow your wrist to be in a neutral position (not pointing up, down, or sideways) when typing or using the mouse.

“Yet, a lot of trays have mouse surfaces lower than the keying surfaces,” adds Kramer. “And it’s kind of annoying because you end up extending that right or left arm down to get the mouse.” Such equipment is not ergonomically correct. While Kramer says you can solve the problem by using a book(s) with your mouse pad on top, her company also manufactures a product labeled a mouse booster for the same purpose. “It’s a 3/4-inch thick foam mouse mat that you place under the mouse to elevate it until it’s level,” she says.

Also, try to position your mouse as close to your keyboard as possible to minimize outward reach. A mouse bridge, which covers the numeric portion of your keyboard (assuming you don’t use the number pad), minimizes arm extension further.

6. Document holder. An administrative professional for 15 years, administrative coordinator Pat Potter CPS of Savannah, Georgia, says most of her jobs have involved extensive typing from paper documents. At her current position with Georgia Institute of Technology Savannah, she often types technical papers for professors. She appreciates the invention of the “document holder.”

“As paperless as we may think we are becoming, with the amount of written text I have to transcribe into electronic format, I could not function effectively without the document holder,” Potter says. Using one with a magnetic line guide helps her to stay on track, even after interruptions.

“The document holder also keeps my eyes from traveling all over, and it enables me not to experience a stiff neck or constant bobbing of my head if the paper were lying flat on the desk,” she says. Head and neck rotation and eye refocusing is exactly what you’re trying to eliminate by using a document holder, says Kramer. Though you can put your document holder close or even attached to the left or right of your monitor, Kramer believes the best document holder offers “in-line viewing.” Positioning the document between the back of your keyboard and the bottom of your monitor (usually at a slight angle) is “in-line viewing.” Likewise, she says to use a slant board, which has an inclined surface, for reading and writing at your desk.

7. Task lighting. When cubicle walls were built up and around her existing desk and workspace area, Sharon Pearson of Oberlin, Ohio, says they blocked much of the previous natural lighting. Pearson, who works as assistant to the administration of the City of Oberlin, attributed losing those rays of sun to new feelings of stress and fatigue. By scrutinizing her workspace, she noted that the area behind her desk was darkest and purchased a desk lamp for that spot. “While it doesn’t shine directly at me, the additional light to my area makes me feel better and helps to brighten my mood,” Pear-son says. “I noticed the difference in my work area immediately.”

Task lighting can be a flexible ergonomic solution in the office because you can adjust and control the amount of lighting and its location. Better lighting can even help relieve body aches—for example, pain in your shoulders and neck from constantly leaning forward in awkward positions to read documents you couldn’t see clearly from a normal sitting position. Good lighting can help eliminate eye fatigue and headaches and make you more alert and productive.

8. Telephone headset. Cradling the phone between your head and shoulder is out. Headsets are in and the price is cheap. Many cost well under $100. But the benefits are abundant. “A telephone headset allows you to work comfortably and multitask,” says Kramer. “Multitasking means you can talk on the phone and use the computer [simultaneously] with your head in a neutral position upright. So you’re increasing productivity as well as improving your posture,” she explains.

And in some cases, you’re putting an end to health problems such as a sore neck, shoulder, and upper back that result from the improper stationary shrug position you previously used to balance the phone on your neck. You’ll find telephone headsets in both corded and wireless versions in such styles as over the-head, behind-the-head, and over-the-ear with earpieces for one or both ears. Visit sites such as and to get an idea of what’s available in telephone headsets.

9. Laptop solutions. Using “laptops” and “ergonomics” in the same sentence is still an evolving concept. For example, if your main computer and monitor is a laptop, one nuisance in practicing proper ergonomics is getting both the keyboard and monitor at the recommended eye and arm levels.

One solution is to use a separate keyboard with your laptop when you’re in the office, along with a laptop platform. For instance, sells a portable laptop holder that allows you to insert the keyboard portion of your laptop vertically and at a slight outward angle between a sandwich-shaped shell of cushioned aluminum. The outside of the top layer of the “sandwich” is a built-in inline viewing document holder that works in conjunction with your separate keyboard. Your laptop monitor is now raised closer to eye level (price $139).

Oh, and if you’ve got a great ergonomic workstation setup, don’t blow the concept by walking out the door lugging 10 pounds of laptops and briefcases each day in a slumped, awkward posture. That carelessness is bound to give you aches and perhaps even a muscle strain injury. Use wheeled cases or a portable luggage carrier that will take the weight off of you and enable you to walk in a more natural posture. Or leave your laptop and work where it belongs—at the office.

Mousing Around

Attention technophobics. Don’t scurry off and leave the mouse-buying decisions to someone else. Here are some details you should know when purchasing your next mouse:


Scroll Wheel—A mouse with a scroll wheel lets you scroll up and down the monitor screen without moving your hand or the mouse. Your finger works the scroll wheel.

Tilt Wheel—With tilt wheel technology, the entire scroll wheel tilts, enabling you to scroll from side to side.

Optical Sensor—An LED-based optical mouse uses parts such as a tracking sensor that sends images (a tiny camera takes 1,500 pictures every second) to a processor that analyzes the images. The processor then essentially tells your computer the coordinates of your mouse movement so it can move your cursor. The advantages? No dirty interiors to clean (no ball), no mouse pad needed, and smoother responses.

Track Ball—In short, the typical track ball mouse contain a ball visible on the underside that touches your mouse pad and rolls when you move the mouse. Working in conjunction with other mechanical parts of the mouse, it communicates to the cursor to move similarly. Track balls need cleaning when dirt, accumulating inside near and on the ball, interferes with smooth usage.

Wireless—A wireless mouse is cordless and uses radio frequency technology to relay coordinates of mouse movement to a receiver or transceiver connected to your computer. Some cordless optical mouse devices can be used in the air during presentations. They may need battery replacement or setting in a rechargeable battery base station. Some optical mouse devices have a “sleep” feature to prolong battery life. Bluetooth and WLAN (wireless local area network) are wireless technology terms associated with unrelated wireless formats. Watch for packaging terms like Bluetooth-enabled device and WLAN-enabled device.

Short Cut Buttons—This mouse feature allows you to program frequently used commands such as “page up” or “page down” that you then utilize with a click of a mouse button.

Connectivity—When you connect a wired mouse to the computer, you’ll use connectors (connectivity requirements should be listed on the product box). Connectors are one of two types: 1) The standard PS/2 connector socket on your computer appears round with six tiny alignment pins forming a circle; or 2) The USB (Universal Serial Bus) connector is a tiny rectangular socket. (Digital cameras and printers often connect to USB ports.) Adapters are sold that can change your connectivity options from PS/2 to USB.