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Recent Server Troubles – An Explanation

If you’ve been trying to snag an UndeadTed over the last few weeks, you’ve almost certainly experienced the recent slow server issues. I would like to apologise profusely for the frustration this has caused and can assure you I am equally upset and keen to resolve the problems. Understandably, I have received several emails regarding the situation, some of them quite angry. I decided to write this post to explain what has been going on behind the scenes and what is being done to prevent these problems happening in future.

Firstly, a little background on the technical issues: 

In August, the shop changed e-commerce software from Opencart to Woocommerce. This was because I was unhappy with certain limitations of Opencart, I found the admin backend very outdated and user-unfriendly and the most recent update corrupted the shop database – luckily I had a backup! In contrast, Woocommerce offers all the functionality I need, is very easy to work with and updating doesn’t fill me with dread!

However, I didn’t realise that Woocommerce is considerably more resource-hungry than Opencart. On the 18th of August, (the first launch since the new shop was revealed) the shared hosting account I used couldn’t cope and the site went temporarily offline. When it came back, it was slow and allowed multiple customers to purchase the same UndeadTed.

After this disastrous launch, I immediately decided to upgrade to a more powerful hosting package on my own virtual server. Everything appeared to look good, and on the 31st of August another launch went live. Unfortunately, there were still problems with server load and there was a repeat of the previous launch issues, albeit on a smaller scale. More UndeadTeds were unfortunately oversold again.

I have since added various caching options to the site, some more successful than others. My hosting company has been absolutely amazing, responding to my requests for help within minutes and installing all sorts of software during product launches to try and eliminate the problems. Unfortunately, we have not yet discovered which element of Woocommerce is eating up resources, but last night (about an hour after the launch) some modifications were added to the server which seemed to speed things up considerably and from that point, customers were able to successfully purchase their UndeadTeds.

Overselling UndeadTeds

From day one, there has been a problem with UndeadTeds overselling. In the mad rush to buy one, it is very common for multiple customers to reach the checkout stage within a few seconds of each other. Once a customer has been directed to Paypal to make payment, it is impossible to stop a transaction from proceeding. I would really love to be able to stop this from happening, but I’ve never been able to find a solution. Please rest assured that if this ever happens to you, I will quickly be in touch with an offer of a replacement, or a refund if you prefer.

Items in customer carts being sold:

Often, customers are getting all the way to checkout and then finding out the UndeadTed in their cart has been sold. This has been an issue since UndeadTeds began and I have often been asked if there is any way to temporarily reserve items placed in a cart so that another customer can’t buy them before you make it to checkout.

I wanted to implement something like this whilst using Opencart, but no developer I approached was interested unless I was able to pay silly money. After the switch to Woocommerce, I was thrilled to see a plugin for this exact thing was already available, so I decided to buy it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to work well on a shop that has people purchasing goods very fast, which I know sounds ridiculous as that’s surely the exact environment where this sort of feature is needed. I’m not entirely sure why it doesn’t work, but instead of temporarily reserving an UndeadTed, it just seems to adjust the stock quantities at random and even adds stock that doesn’t exist meaning customers can easily buy the same UndeadTed over and over again.

It is possible these issues are related to the server timeouts and slowdown, so if this is corrected I will give the plugin one more go. However, if it still causes problems I will unfortunately have to remove it and concede defeat on this feature for the time being.

In Summary:

My priority is to get the shop running smoothly during product launches, which in turn will hopefully prevent accidental oversells. Once this is done, I hope the cart reservation plugin will work correctly and therefore eliminate the frustration of having an UndeadTed in your cart only for it to be sold before you reach checkout.

UndeadTeds has seen an enormous increase in visitors since the shop migration, largely due to my increased efforts to promote the business by adding a newsletter, offering a competition and generally trying to be more active on social media. While all this new traffic is awesome, it hasn’t helped with the server load issues as there are literally four times more visitors during a product launch!

Once again, I sincerely apologise for all the issues that are happening. I do hope this post has made it clear that I am working to fix things, even though it may look like nothing has changed. The biggest difficulty is that the problems only become apparent during a launch, I can try and resolve any issues afterwards, but the only way to know for sure is to see what happens at the next launch. A bit of trial and error really, but I WILL get there, I promise. 🙂

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