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When should you be using load balancing?

02/25/2013 | Internet hosting |

If you're looking to create a robust website that can handle high traffic and cope with outages, load balancing is a solution you should be looking into. This essentially involves spreading out traffic on your site to several servers, while maintaining a single external IP address. Web browsers will be able to send their requests to a server with the available resources to handle the traffic, to make sure you're up and running at all times.

Keep your speed high
If you only have a low-traffic website, you probably don't need this solution, as a single web server should be capable of meeting your needs. But if you're a rapidly growing company or experiencing a significant spike in interest, having load balancing capabilities can greatly improve the speed of your site and therefore offer a better user experience.

So if you're expecting a jump in demand due to a new publicity drive or you're already struggling to cope with increased numbers of visitors on a daily basis, using multiple web servers and implementing load balancing could be the way forward.

Defend against attacks
Another great benefit of using load balancing is to defend your websites against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, it was noted by the Seattle Pi newspaper.

These have become the weapon of choice for many hackers looking to make a point against businesses, as it's relatively easy to instruct a botnet to flood a website with traffic, overloading its servers with requests. In recent months, some of the world's largest companies have been targeted by this form of attack.

The result of this is it becomes impossible for legitimate traffic to get through. However, by utilising load balancing you can ensure that traffic is routed to an available server, while routers can be used to handle the flood of requests.

Build redundancies
What's more, if you're using load balancing, you can ensure that your site remains available even if you suffer an unexpected failure in one of your servers. If one server fails - whether due to problems with the hardware, software or human errors - you have a fully functioning copy on secondary servers. This means any potential downtime can be avoided, as even if one server goes down the others will be available to keep the site live.

Create a staging environment
This solution can also be great if you want to make changes to your site, as having multiple web servers available means you have an enclosed staging environment where you can test any new code.

If you only have a single server, you'll have no way of knowing if there are any errors before you go live, which can result in costly downtime while you strip out the changes and make sure any new code works as intended.

However, with multiple servers, you can test production changes on a single solution to be sure it works as expected before rolling it out to the others, thereby ensuring your site remains available at all times.

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