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As Black Friday is quickly approaching, a lot of demand is placed on retail IT systems during the peak holiday season. But what should those that are in charge be doing to ensure that the lead up to the weekend after Black Friday runs smoothly? And how can data generated from the massive amount of information generated be used to retailers advantages? Some industry leaders shared their thoughts with VMblog.

"As one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, every second counts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday," said Field CTO of Tintri, Chris Colotti. "Retailers need their applications and services to be running at 100% efficiency 24x7. Downtime and outages must be avoided at all costs. But should an issue occur, retailers need to understand the impact to revenue and reputation. How much downtime can each application afford before it impacts the bottom line or seriously impacts customers? The agility and flexibility of the cloud model is attractive, but you cannot afford to ignore time-to-recovery as a key metric in your IT strategy. To avoid downtime and outages, retailers need to be able to scale quickly, plan out their capacity, and underpin this with a multi cloud strategy - this will ensure continuous uptime."

Ian Pennell, Chief Product Officer of Cradlepoint, also weighed in to stress the importance for retailers to avoid network downtime.

"Retailers looking to gain an edge over Amazon around Black Friday and Cyber Monday should not overlook the importance of the Internet to their own operations," Pennell said. "Network downtime can bring consequences that last far longer than the outage itself. According to Gartner, every minute of Internet downtime costs retailers an average of $5,600. Customers may walk away from potential purchases when they see long lines or realize their credit card transactions will not be processed. The impact of a network outage on a company's brand can be significant, particularly in the face of the ‘always on' ecommerce competition. Perhaps the most frustrating fact is that losses associated with a loss of connectivity can be avoided with proactive planning. Reliable failover systems ensure business continuity when a network goes down, so that sales will not be lost and customers stay happy amid the hustle and bustle of the season."
Mark Budzinski, CEO of WhereScape discussed how data gathered from the massive amount of information generated can be used to retailers advantages.
"Each year retailers get smarter about targeting potential customers," Budzinski said. "By analyzing the shopping patterns from previous holiday season, retailers are able to continually fine-tune advertising channels and offer even more impactful discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Enterprise data warehouses and big data strategy powered by automation software speed up the design, development, deployment and operation of data infrastructure to deliver insightful data to retail leaders faster. With fierce competition to capitalize on the holiday shopping season, increasing the speed and depth of reliable and actionable data for retailers can provide the edge needed to optimally maximize the supply chain and stock control to capture opportunity."
Rob Strechay, SVP Product, Zerto stressed the importance of safely moving workloads to the cloud environment.

"Last year, during the five days after Thanksgiving, some of the biggest names in retail experienced outages due to system overloads from high traffic. Several reports estimate that these outages equated to billions in lost revenue.

These kinds of numbers can make or break a quarter if not an entire brand. Many retailers are overlooking that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure! Cloud must be part of the proactive plan to address this. Successful retailers use the latest advancements in data mobility and orchestration to pre-position workloads to the cloud where they can scale more easily.
Obviously, a lot of demand is placed on retail IT systems during the peak holiday season, and the ability to quickly, easily and safely move workloads to a cloud environment, whether it be Azure, IBM, a managed service provider or a more robust on-premises solution, can significantly improve and speed up system performance. There are even retailers who compete against Amazon, while leveraging AWS in this way. This ounce of prevention means there is less risk for systems to falter and cause costly downtime during the rush."

Gary Watson, CTO and Co-Founder, Nexsan, highlighted the importance of having measures in place to prevent Ransomware attacks.
"As retailers' IT teams prepare for the massive influx of data and sales that will come into their systems during this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping spree, they likely have security and resiliency top of mind," said Watson. "With Ransomware attacks on the rise, and all this new, critical data coming into their systems so quickly, it's a necessity that companies have measures in place in case an attack does make its way through. Retailers need to be prepared to be able recover crucial data as quickly as possible, without having to pay a potential ransom; not only to keep important data safe but also to keep operations running business as usual during the most important sales week of the year. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan, above and beyond traditional security measures, needs to be put in place to prevent attacks from causing any amount of downtime; It's imperative for retailers to take measures to arm themselves with a second line of defense that protects data from corruption and deletion, minimizing the impact of these malicious cyber attacks."
Bob Davis, CMO, Plutora, emphasized implementing a continuous delivery management plan to avoid any glitches.

"Every year Black Friday and Cyber Monday encourages millions of people to flock to stores to get their hands on the best deals of the season," said Davis. "As more retailers than ever depend on applications and software to support sales both online and in store, they need to be on top of their game to ensure that everything stays up and running, no matter what comes their way. Software releases are the single biggest factor contributing to downtime across all industries and if retailers experience a glitch during the shopping frenzy that takes place over this November weekend, the total dollar loss could easily hit seven figures and the reputational damage could increase this number drastically. To significantly decrease the chances of being caught out by a glitch, retailers should implement a solid continuous delivery management plan to be confident that their software and applications will run smoothly no matter the iteration or version."

Jason Collier, Co-Founder, Scale Computing, noted the importance of bolstering infrastructures.
"As retailers ramp up their staffs and inventories for the holiday shopping season and Black Friday, they must focus on bolstering their IT infrastructures as well. The distributed nature of retail companies means the individual stores have minimal or no IT staff, but often the same IT needs as the central office. By deploying flexible virtualized systems such as hyperconverged infrastructures at the edge, retailers can quickly scale capacity and computing power at its stores while allowing their home office IT team to remotely manage them through a simple web interface. Borrowing from the immortal words of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tifnel, hyperconvergence allows retailers to turn it to 11 when they need it to be one louder. This means store employees can handle the Black Friday onslaught without worrying about costly downtime or troubleshooting IT issues."