Control the chaos - The importance of monitoring traffic spikes

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Control the chaos - The importance of monitoring traffic spikes

Aug 11, 2020
4 minutes

You’ve spent years scaling your infrastructure alongside your business growth, and day-to-day, your application performance is thriving. But what happens when your traffic spikes out of your predicted “normal” range, heading into unchartered territory? Are you prepared to support this new influx of customers? Or will you crumble under the pressure of it all - leaving customers dissatisfied at the poor user experience?

It doesn’t have to be this way. You need visibility into your software performance through the use of a Real User Monitoring tool in order to monitor traffic spikes effectively. Let’s dig into not only how we can manage the risks associated with traffic spikes, but also why we should care about the implications in the first place.

The implications of the “new normal”

The world is rapidly adjusting to a “new normal,” with people bunkering down for the indeterminate lockdowns that have swept across the globe. These lockdowns have inevitably caused an influx of internet usage. Whether it is people buying supplies online, searching the web for the latest news, or merely snuggling up with their favorite blankets to watch the latest show on HBO, internet usage is up. While this might be a welcome traffic surge for well-established companies who have the infrastructure in place to handle these challenges, smaller businesses are struggling under the pressure of this increased traffic.

We all know the importance that application performance has on the user experience. But what are the real implications of a poorly performing application? How can we not only react to traffic spikes as they are occurring but further prepare for them, seizing the opportunity that they provide from the second the spike begins? These are questions that are running through the minds of developers across the globe. Fortunately, we’ve got some insights here at Raygun that help to answer these pressing questions.

The impact of traffic spikes on the user experience

A significant traffic spike can cause massive issues for a website if the proper precautions aren’t in place. By receiving such an overwhelming number of requests, your site risks slowing down to unacceptable levels for the user, or worse - going down entirely.

Streaming companies such as Netflix have tried to combat this by throttling the quality of video in the regions that are experiencing the greatest traffic spikes. Taking an approach that directly impacts the user experience should only be a last resort. One poor user experience can be all it takes for a user to decide that your product or service isn’t the right fit for them.

Multiple poor user experiences, however, can cause a ripple effect, including:

  • An increased bounce rate
  • An increase in customer churn
  • A decrease in SEO rankings
  • The skewing of web peformance data

These repercussions will all add up, and ultimately, negatively impact your bottom line. More than anything, though, poor performance ultimately makes your business look unprofessional. If you can’t maintain your website, how can you expect a customer to put their faith in the other areas of your business? The truth is, you can’t. Nothing gets granted for free, and a positive brand image builds up over years of positive interactions and error-free experiences - all it takes is one poor experience to taint that relationship forever. You can read more about benchmarking web performance here if you’re curious about what constitutes a poor user experience.

Another factor that can cause long-lasting pain for your business after an inadequate response to a traffic spike is your SEO ranking. Google has stringent rules, and if you want to perform well on their platform, then you have to play by them.

Performance has proven to be one of the contributing factors that determine your SEO ranking - meaning poor performing pages rank lower on Google search, decreasing the organic flow of traffic to your website. During a massive traffic spike, these increased load times can accumulate extremely quickly, giving you very little time to implement changes before your Google SEO ranking crashes. If the proper precautions aren’t in place, then this bulk of poor performing pages can lower your ranking to the point that takes months, if not years, to get back to where you once were.

How monitoring can help

But how can you prepare for traffic spikes? Aren’t they inherently unpredictable and hard to manage? Well, they don’t have to be. You need visibility into how your application is being used, who is using it, and where the most significant pain points for your customers are occurring. By doing so, you can paint a picture of what exactly went wrong for any specific user, and manage it accordingly.

Time is of the essence during a traffic spike, as by their very nature, they come hard and fast. This gives you no time to dig manually through logs, trying to recreate errors in the traditional way. A tool that can simplify this process away from you can prove to be extremely valuable. Time is precious, and a quick response is crucial. This is why you need a tool that can monitor traffic spikes from the instant they start.

Here at Raygun, we monitor traffic spikes with our Real User Monitoring tool. It gives us the information needed to discover and resolve any of the performance bottlenecks that our customers might be experiencing. The instance-level data shows us the real users’ journey that led them to a poorly performing webpage. This ability to dig into poor performing web pages allows us to quickly resolve any unforeseen issues.

Real User Monitoring histogram UI

By looking into the distribution of performance on crucial pages, you can make sure performance is still falling within acceptable realms. Then, once a poor performing page has been identified, you can start looking into why the page was performing poorly in the first place. These actionable, code-level diagnostics give you control amongst the chaos of a traffic spike, allowing you to outperform and outshine your competition.


Traffic spikes can be a blessing if you are prepared for them and a curse if you are not. Raygun has a suite of tools that can help you effectively monitor traffic spikes and give you peace of mind when they occur. Gain visibility into the performance of your application and enable yourself to quickly identify and resolve any performance issues that are hindering the customer experience. Don’t miss the opportunity that a traffic spike presents. Gain the confidence that your systems can handle anything with Raygun.

Learn more about the benefits of RUM today.