For keeping a live ecommerce website up and running, there is a significant amount of investment required in setting up the backend IT infrastructure and its management.
As an ecommerce business owner, one is aware of the fact that this is a necessary investment. Why? Because the losses suffered when a website goes down are debilitating, as explained in our post on how to keep ecommerce websites up and running through 24×7 IT monitoring and support.
Surge in ecommerce website traffic: A boon or bane for your business?
One of the reasons websites experience outage or downtime is due to too much traffic—more than the website can handle. That’s a double-edged sword for any ecommerce website—any increase in traffic is good news, in fact the larger the better. But sometimes websites may not equipped to handle a sudden and significant jump in traffic, leading to downtime. In such cases, not only are the benefits of increased website traffic lost (your potential customers won’t be able to access your website), there’s loss in brand reputation too.
But is it possible to keep the website operating smoothly while still catering to a surge in traffic? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’! This is usually done by distributing the burden of increased traffic across resources—a practice known as load balancing.
In this post, we’re going to give you all the introductory info about load balancing and how you can use it to benefit your ecommerce website without being a drain on business costs.
What is server load balancing?
Wikipedia explains the meaning and scope of load balancing well: “load balancing improves the distribution of workloads across multiple computing resources, such as computers, a computer cluster, network links, central processing units, or disk drives. Load balancing aims to optimize resource use, maximize throughput, minimize response time, and avoid overload of any single resource.”
In this post, we’ll discuss load balancing specifically in the context of managing ecommerce website traffic.
Why is server load balancing important for ecommerce websites?
As the Wikipedia explanation states, load balancing achieves operational speed and efficiency by ensuring no one server is overloaded, even distribution of the load across servers, improvement in the rate of processing and website speed, and ensuring that there is negligible time lag in website response.
So what’s the effect of these features of server load balancing on your ecommerce website?
- Scalability: Ecommerce websites usually experience a significant jump in traffic during periods of special offers, festive season shopping or the launch of a much-awaited product. If the website has been usually having traffic of 500-600 visitors, the website is unlikely to have sufficient resources to handle a sudden jump to 2000-5000 visitors.
With server load balancing, the load will be distributed across servers, making your website scalable without collapsing under the burden on the increased traffic.
- Uninterrupted uptime: Whether these is need for turning a server off for maintenance, or these some kind of server failover, clients connected to that server will experience that the “website is down.” This leads to disappointment among customers as well as business loss.
A load balancer will automatically direct traffic from said server to the other serves that are running, so users never have to experience website outage or downtime.
- Minimizing latency: During the periods of usual business, there may not be need to employ all the servers available. But when traffic increases, or the active server fails, there is need to call additional servers into action. The load balancer recognizes active servers and directs all traffic to them. When an additional server starts spinning, this too is recognized by the load balancer, which then distributes requests. In this manner, the load balancer adapts to auto scaling and minimizes website latency through load distribution.
In times of 4G internet, a time lag is loss of income, so a load balancer actually helps improve the bottom line.
What are the algorithms behind server load balancing?
Now that we’ve established the need for and significance of load balancing, let’s look at how it is carried out.
How does the load balancer figure out how to distribute the load? To which server should how much of the traffic be directed? Will the load balancer upset the balance and reroute too much or too little traffic to a particular server?
There’s a simple solution to work around these—algorithms that form the basis of load balancing.
1. Round robin: A simple enough formula, as per round robin algorithm for load balancing, client requests are handed out turn by turn in sequence to each server listed. Upon reaching the end of the list, the pattern is repeated from the first server.
This is easy to implement, and has further variations to ensure equitable distribution.
2. Least connections: This algorithm distributes client requests on the basis of the concurrent connections with the server. For instance, a new request will go to the server that has lesser connections at that moment in order to distribute the load.
This method is suitable for websites where user have longer sessions.
3. Source IP hash: This algorithm takes into account the source IP address of the client. A unique hash key is created for each source IP and the request is distributed using this hash key.
With this method, in case of a broken connection, the client request is directed to the same server when the connection is reestablished.
A specific algorithm is chosen as per the unique requirements of different e-commerce businesses, and the availability of resources.
What are the possible risks of load balancing?
To say it as concisely as possible, practically none! Load balancing itself is a risk management and reduction tool, and with the introduction of Amazon’s load balancer, backup systems kick into place seamlessly if the load balancer itself fails.
Is load balancing costly?
Compared to investment made on servers, the cost of load balancing is much lesser, and is worth the potential returns it offers. The now widely-used Amazon Web Services is much more affordable than configured load balancers, which were the norm earlier.
We hope we have covered all the questions you may have had about load balancing, and answered them clearly. As an ecommerce website monitoring and IT support company, we at Embitel Technologies definitely recommend using a load balancer to take traffic woes off your mind.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a web developer who’s had this question across his mind at least once. Should I choose Cloud Hosting or Geolocated hosting or CDN to serve customers in different geographies? Having had regional hosting servers for all our other Indian Server Hosting programs, we recently launched geolocated hosting in China and now have hosting available from servers in Hong Kong, US, India, Turkey and UK.
But let’s ask some vital questions first:
- What is the purpose of geolocated hosting?
- What should I choose if my client expects customers from multiple locations?
- What about CDN?
If you’ve had at least one of these questions in mind, keep reading.
Why Should I think twice about Cloud Hosting for website visitors from various locations?
The common belief when it comes to serving customers from different locations is that Cloud Hosting, which boasts of high performance and turbo speed is probably a better option than geolocated hosting which in comparison, may not have the superior performance of the Cloud.
It is true that greatest advantage of the Cloud is amazing flexibility which makes it ideal for businesses with growing and fluctuating demands. Cloud easily gives you an advantage over competitors due to the sheer superiority of this type of hosting. But does this mean it’s the ideal hosting choice to serve visitors from locations around the globe?
Well, I’m here to tell you that that might not be the case.
What’s important to understand is that while the Cloud certainly is superior, local Cloud hosting still has servers in physical locations which, if aren’t close to your customers’ location, can affect the load speed time of your website. Surprised?
Take a look at the image below. Let’s list what we see:
- Cloud Servers are located in South America
- Your geo-located Shared Hosting servers are located in West India
- Your client’s customer is accessing the website from East India
If performance is your objective, Cloud hosting (which is definitely powerful and offers flexibility) would be an ideal choice. However, if low latency and high speed are important to you, geo-located servers are apt in this situation due to the sheer proximity of the server to the customer, which the Cloud might compromise on.
It’s important to assess your objective. Would you prefer the power of a Cloud server or the low latency from a geo-located server?
The alternative you could explore – CDN
Enter, CDN. CDN is short for content delivery network. It’s a system of distributed servers that deliver pages and content to users in different locations. It servers your webpage content from the closest edge-server to your visitor. Some examples of popular CDNs are Amazon’s CloudFront, CloudFlare, Akamai.
How does CDN improve speed?
CND stores copes of the files on your webpage in various locations around the world. When someone visits your website, these files are delivered to them from the closest CND server.
What are the advantages of CDN?
• Fast delivery
• Global reach
• Swift user experience
• Quick file loads
• High availability
Here’s a simple diagram to show how CDN works:
What about Geolocated Hosting?
Usually, web providers have servers in locations around the world to enable faster load speed and lower latency.
Advantages of opting for geolocated hosting:
1. Proximity to market i.e. the distance data has to travel between your server and the user which affects load speed also known as latency. The closer the proximity, the greater the load speed. Geolocated hosting facilitates that. Try assessing your needs with the 80:20 ratio – where serving a majority of your clients’ customers is important to you.
2. Search Engine Optimisation Benefit: Server location is one of the many factors Google considers when delivering a webpage to check if your website is relevant for that geography or language. Google says, “The server location is often physically near your users and can be a signal about your site’s intended audience” therefore increasing your chances to be visible to the target audience in their searches.
3. Cost effective: Geolocated hosting is certainly more affordable than Cloud Hosting and CDN. If your business does not see very high volumes of traffic, this might just be the best budget solution. It’s economically better if you’re looking to cover more of your target audience.
At Indian Server Hosting, we have datacenters located in:
• Hong Kong
• United States
• United Kingdom
While it all boils down to your clients’ requirements and his target audience, it’s important to weigh all your options before you make a decision based on common belief.
If money is not a constraint and you’re looking for performance, flexibility and speed, both Cloud Hosting and CDN are fantastic options.
Think you need more information on this topic or have something to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
A year or so ago, India surpassed Japan in the number of Internet users and has now comfortably placed itself at number 3 followed by the United States at number 2 and China at number 1. Undoubtedly, India has a vast population in comparison to most other nations, so a base of 300 million Internet users is not surprising. However, ease of access is mostly restricted to the metropolitan cities and semi-urban regions in the nation. We all recognize the limitless potential of the Internet and several instances around the world have proven how it is a catalyst for social change. Having saturated the densely populated regions with Internet-related amenities, the onus now rightly has shifted to the developing and under-developed regions that have limited, or no access to the Internet.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi is well aware of how paramount the Internet is as a medium in matters of improving the socio-economic standards of the country at large. I’m sure you are aware of his recent visit to San Jose, California. Silicon Valley giants like Google and Microsoft have given their support to Modi’s Digital India initiative.