How to Scale Your Website With a Load Balancer

When your business starts to become successful, it will usually see a dramatic increase in web traffic. That increase in traffic is one of the biggest trials for your company's website because the site's servers need to be able to withstand the load of all the new traffic. If they can't handle the new traffic, the website will be inaccessible. This downtime results in lost income and bad publicity, so it's important to make sure your website scales well.


What Is Website Scaling?

Website scaling is the process of ensuring your website remains accessible during increases in traffic. Scalability often goes hand in hand with several other metrics, including availability (or uptime) and the website's speed.

Administrators can test how well a website scales by adding virtual users and seeing how the website responds. If the website continues working, it scales well under those conditions. If not, administrators may need to do something to increase the servers' capacity.

One of the most common methods of scaling a website involves adding more servers to handle more traffic. However, this solution is expensive and may not solve the problem: If one server is handling a disproportionate amount of traffic compared to the others, many users will see the site slow down or even become inaccessible, no matter how many users there are. To improve the capacity of existing servers, many administrators use a technique called load balancing.

Load Balancing and Different Algorithms

Load balancing is the process of distributing network traffic more evenly across several servers. This way, users will all access the website with approximately the same speed and success, and no server will become overtaxed unless the traffic is truly exceptional. A load balancing algorithm will also recognize if a server is offline and will redirect traffic to the servers that are currently working.

There are several load balancing algorithms commonly in use, each of which uses a different technique to decide which server should handle a request:

  • A round robin load balancing algorithm chooses servers sequentially. It will send the first request to server A, the second to server B and so on. While this distributes the load fairly evenly, some servers may nonetheless see more traffic than others, so it's not a perfect solution.
  • A least connections algorithm looks at how many connections each server is currently processing and chooses the server with the fewest to handle a new request. Most modern least connections algorithms also look at a server's capacity when making this calculation: Even if a server is handling many more connections than others, if it's very fast and has a high capacity, it may still be the best choice for handling new ones.
  • IP hash load balancing involves looking at each user's IP address and making a determination from there about which server will handle the connection most quickly.
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More Load Balancer Tips

Just installing a load balancer will have a positive effect on your website. But for maximum effect, you'll need to take a few additional steps. For instance, make sure your servers are all synchronized to the same time -- preferably by connecting with a standardized atomic clock. Make sure you're measuring all your network activity so you can identify problems or changes as they arise, and set up access lists to restrict traffic.

If you're choosing your first load balancer, consider Snapt. It comes with easy-to-access metrics and can run on any system (or on the cloud). Its Layer 7 balancing efficiently balances traffic loads, and its full active/passive redundancy ensures no downtimes.

No one can predict when a website will be subjected to heavy traffic. But a load balancer is the best way to make sure your website can scale to meet any surges in demand.

Speak to our experts today to find out more about Snapt’s load balancer and how we can help you to guarantee enhanced service across your enterprise.

Otherwise, jump in and download Snapt’s free trial and get started today.

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