Maps, a compass and Rudolph’s red nose. This is all Santa has to rely on if his navigation system goes down during his gift-giving trek around the world. Something tells us there’s going to be a lot of sad faces on Christmas morning if he has to revert to manual navigation.

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If it seems absurd that manual processes are the only failsafe, look at the many companies that find themselves following a similar path as Saint Nick. Walmart, J. Crew, Lowe’s, Ulta and other retailers all experienced technical difficulties on Black Friday as online traffic peaked.

In a perfect world, systems would always run smoothly with zero disruptions. Yet, things happen, especially around the holidays: The high volume of traffic around Black Friday, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, snow and ice storms that cause power outages, not to mention the ever-present risk of cyberthreats.

Your best bet for traffic spikes is high availability. You need to design an infrastructure that allows for high amounts of uptime without interruption. In other words, your system needs to be able to function properly even if it suffers failure to components.

For power outages and other disasters, backups and disaster recovery plans can get critical systems back online as quickly as possible. Most important, though, is to test your systems and your recovery plans, especially ahead of big events like holiday shopping.

Failing to do so could leave you with nothing more than a compass, a map, and a lot of unhappy customers. And that might actually be worse than being on the naughty list.

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