Reliability concerns with online advertising

anger person2 Online advertising is a complex environment with many different moving parts provided by different vendors. Publishers need to host their website, which include web pages, images, videos and other components. The website also includes external media, third-party widgets and ad tags to display creatives from adservers. On the other side of the advertising supply chain, we have advertisers, who need to track their ads, host their landing pages and operate their e-commerce system. Any of these many components can have issues from time to time. Let us discuss some of the possible problems and what you can do to prevent and respond to these issues.

Outages do happen, albeit rarely

The fact of the matter is that there simply is no system that can be considered 100% perfect. That is also very much the case with online advertising. Just as you might lose your internet connection or cannot load a website from time to time, you may also find that outages with online ad serving do happen. A small networking issue can cause a slowdown because traffic is routed via an alternative carrier. A major power outage can take down a whole datacenter which contains many servers. For a small issue, some ads might be slower than usual to load but only some users. For a major issue, ads might not load at all and your site can be dragged down or become non-responsive.

Outages happen because the whole ad ecosystem is very complex. It consists of multiple systems from different vendors around the world. The dependencies between these systems vary widely but in a bad case, an outage to one system can bring down another system. A system-wide outage that brings down all ads for everyone everywhere is very rare. More often, the incident is isolated to a component or a link within this ad delivery chain. Ads may be slow to load just to some viewers while loading quickly for everyone else.

Impact of outages

Although an outage is not a common occurrence, it is also one that you need to plan and prepare for. Your goal is to prevent a high-impact outage and limit its negative effects on your business operations. One option is not relying on any single vendor alone for all of your needs. Spread out your eggs into multiple baskets. The goal is to separate the whole customer experience into different areas. Some are critical and some are optional. For example, if your website contains a fully automated online ordering process then that area is critical and should have its own dedicated site, subdomain and servers away from the main website and away from ad-supported areas. Another example is to have two separate systems: your website can have a public facing area with advertisements and another area for registered users without ads. It is a good idea to take some time to evaluate what you can separate and what you can do to increase reliability. Multiple what-if scenarios will help you identify what should be moved to a different, maybe dedicated system.

Part 2 - Action plan, reliable partners and global reach

Part 3 - Image host, video server, and landing pages (coming soon)