An Introduction to Load Balancing

Traffic Means BusinessYou want your company to be popular. You want to be #trending . Today, it’s a part of doing business.However, trending means traffic and traffic means a heavy load on your servers . 1. Can your servers—your site—handle viral marketing campaigns and social media campaigns where incoming end users can spike dramatically? 2. Can you host a live stream or media event without having to worry about slowdowns or (we shudder even thinking about it) a total systems failure?One way you can make sure that you’re ready for whatever comes your way (well, your site’s way, anyway) is to have a load balancer in place. A load balancer uses a series of algorithms to evenly distribute your end users across multiple instances—across multiple servers—of your website, ensuring consistent performance and preventing crashes. Also acting as an automatic failover device, the load balancer is an essential component when it comes to your infrastructure.Why is Load Balancing Important to YouAs of Friday, April 12, 2019, at 12:09 p.m. (thanks there are 4.2 billion internet users, worldwide. Since January first of this year, they’ve sent 74 trillion tweets, 25.5 quadrillion emails, and have made 646.8 trillion Google searches.Oh, and there are 2.5 billion active Facebook users as of 12:18 p.m.Is your website ready for the potentiality that these numbers represent? With so many internet users and the ever-rising popularity (and ubiquity) of social media, a small nudge in the right direction could have a significant impact on your site traffic—and with an increase in traffic comes an increase in risk to your ecosystem.> You need a way to make sure everyone that visits your site does so in an orderly way; a way that doesn’t risk the performance or integrity of your servers. That’s what a load balancer does: it acts like an attended parking lot.  Subscribe to the Liquid Web weekly newsletter to get the latest on high availability technology sent straight to your inbox. Remember the last time you went to an event where you had to pay for parking? There was, most likely, a single entrance, a person taking money, and a person directing people into parking spots one by one, row by row. A load balancer does much the same thing—your website iterations (across multiple servers) is the parking lot, your end users are the cars, and your load balancer is the attendant. Take a minute and imagine what it would look like if the parking lot at the event had several entrances and no attendants. It would be complete chaos. (I can see it now; fist fights, fender benders, and an eventual, full-scale riot. The police would come, the event would get shut down, and no one gets to see whatever it is they were there to see in the first place.)Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but without a load balancer, a spike in traffic can bring your website to a screeching halt . A screeching halt is bad for business. For every minute of IT downtime—website, servers, database, and the like—companies lose an average of $5,600 (thanks Gartrillioner, Inc.). That’s somewhere between $140,000 and $300,000 an hour depending on the size and model of your company. The modest investment it takes to put a load balancing solution in place pales in comparison to the losses your enterprise could take if your server(s) crash.Your Company Will BenefitAccording to the Aberdeen Group, the average business will experience 14.1 hours of IT downtime, annually—that 14.1 hours translates into 1.55 million in revenue. Revenue loss only increases as your company’s reliance on IT increases. For example, Dunn & Bradstreet estimate 6.4 million in losses per hour for the average online brokerage company.Finally, if you consider that 81% of companies report that they can only shoulder 8.76 hours of downtime annually (this one’s from Information Technology and Intelligence Corp), it becomes abundantly clear how important uptime is to the overall health of your business and the businesses around you.> Regardless of the size of your enterprise, a load balancing solution will pay for itself.Even a single, averted hour of downtime can be the difference between a good year and a bad year considering the fact that small businesses average only $390,000 in revenue a year (according to the U.S. Census 2014 Survey of Entrepreneurs).In 2016, Medium put together a comprehensive report on eCommerce. This report made plain the impact a website outage—or even a slowdown—has on revenue. They even put the top 50 eCommerce websites (Ikea, Macy’s, Nike, etc.) through their paces, measuring connectivity around the clock, for a week straight. Given that eCommerce company websites, as Medium puts it, “…are not only an important source of information but the source of income for the companies themselves…” these numbers are pretty drastic. However, as connectivity and website speed and performance are increasingly integral to all enterprises, crashing under a heavy load is simply not good for business.Here’s the skinny, according to Medium . * A whopping 73% of mobile internet users report coming across websites that were simply too slow to load, while 38% reported a 404. * Is your page not loading? If so, 90% of users will (if it’s an option) go to a competitor. * On average (over the 7 days Medium measured), uptime amongst the top 50 was only 99.03% (two 9s), somewhat below the industry’s recognized standard of 99.9% (three 9s) and well below the industry’s gold standard of 99.999% (five 9s). * Short, but frequent, outages—not prolonged downtime—were most common amongst the top 50 sites.Obviously these numbers—both revenue earned and revenue lost as a result of downtime—are going to change depending on the size, shape, and model of your company. However, one thing is for sure: Your business is probably online which means you have a server, and any time those things go down you’re losing money. You don’t want to lose money. How a Load Balancer WorksOk, so, you definitely want a load balancer. But, even if you’re not designing, buying, and maintaining your own hardware and software it’s a good idea to know how your hosting service is implementing the technology. Why? So you can stay agile. In most cases, you can work with your host to make changes (sometimes big, sometimes small) to your IT infrastructure to better suit your unique needs. Typically, hosts that provide load balancing will have options that you can choose from.These options are primarily relegated to two categories: 1. Algorithms and methods 2. Hosting dedicationAlgorithms & MethodsLoad balancing works by employing an algorithm that determines the method by which site traffic is distributed between servers. The 9 algorithms and methods, below, represent the most common ways load balancing is done.1. The Round Robin Method The round robin method is perhaps the least complex of the balancing methods. Traffic is evenly distributed by simply forwarding requests to each server in the infrastructure in turn, one by one. When the algorithm has made it through the list of instances ...Read more

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