July 8, 2008, 12:00 AM

Ritz speeds up page loads and reduces server load with web accelerator

Ritz Interactive wanted to make sure its web customers didn’t have to wait for pages to load, so it began using a web accelerator. The system has reduced Ritz’s server load by 50%, lowered bandwidth use by 20% to 50% and reduced download times by 20%.

Ritz Interactive’s eight e-commerce sites are busy. The company’s boating equipment sites, such as BoatersWorld.com and BoatingOnly.com, offer more than 40,000 SKUs, while its camera and photo e-commerce sites, including RitzCamera.com and WolfCamera.com, offer around 35,000. All those products mean the sites are constantly serving up a lot. A lot of graphics. And a lot of pictures. And a lot of data.

As its site offerings and products grew, Ritz wanted to make sure its 2 million monthly customers’ wait times to load graphics and receive information didn’t. And so, Ritz deployed the BIG-IP WebAccelerator 4500 v9 from F5 Networks Inc. The new system has reduced the back-end server load by 50% across all Ritz retail sites, lowered bandwidth usage by 20% to 50%, and reduced download times by 20%, says Mark Remington, chief technology officer for Ritz Interactive.

“We are pushing a lot of content around the Internet,” Remington says. “But with the accelerator, as our traffic scales up or it’s holiday time, we’re not worried.”

The accelerator-a plug-and-play application with a web interface-works by storing viewed pages in a cache, so that if a customer in New York, for example, views a web page and another user in Florida accesses the same page 10 minutes later, the page data for the second customer is pulled from the information already stored in the cache. Because customers don’t have to wait for the site to build the web page from scratch with HTML formats and database queries each time, they experience faster page loads and Ritz is able to reduce its server load and bandwidth use. “In effect, you get a page that’s built and you save on the back end processing to build that again,” Remington says.

Ritz paid a one-time fee for the box and pays a small monthly amount for customer support. “It took about a week to get going, and that included testing,” Remington says.

The accelerator is a better option than adding more to Ritz’s back-end systems to keep up with climbing traffic, Remington says. “We saw our web traffic continuing to grow and we didn’t want to keep adding servers and additional back-end technology,” he says. “This gives us a more measured way to deliver a more positive experience.”

Ritz Interactive is No. 114 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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