Handling High Web Traffic with a Multi-Clustering Model

Radoslav Chakarov, Content Lead at ScalaHosting, explains some of the common problems for high traffic websites, and discusses the pros and cons of the clustering model.

Starting a new website, everyone dreams of the days when thousands, even millions of visitors, will flock to their pages to read their content or buy their products.

But what happens when you get there? How can you ensure you meet the growing demand while still keeping a spotless brand reputation?

In reality, owners of high-traffic websites have a range of new problems to consider compared to SMBs. Let’s take a quick look:

Common Problems for High Traffic Websites

No webmaster (or site visitor) enjoys downtimes, that’s for sure. But while you can afford some occasional faults when only a couple of hundred users visit your pages monthly, things drastically change when you already have people’s attention. Every second your site is not online can lead to devastating business and financial losses. According to Statista, the average cost of each hour of downtime most often falls in the $301,000-$400,000 (£250,000-£333,000) category.

The answer can often be found in our own “garden” – be it some bloated code we implemented, a faulty plugin, or a command that sends out too many server requests at once.

But it’s not even human error or server status to watch out for – the bigger your project gets, the more lucrative prize it will become for hackers. Even the most prominent industry giants with giant IT teams at their disposal are not 100% safe. In fact, Google services were the target of the biggest DDoS attack ever recorded, with Amazon, GitHub, and SpamHaus among the other big victims.

As you can imagine, large enterprises employ a much more complex infrastructure than the average client. A single server is rarely sufficient, and the heavily customized online projects will also need a particular configuration to run smoothly.

So what can big websites do to maintain their popularity?

Introducing Multi-Clustering

Clustered web hosting is a hybrid service that utilizes multiple physical servers to spread the incoming load and reduce the chances of downtime.

If you have a business, quite often, you would want to separate different services on different server machines, thus reducing the risk of everything going down simultaneously. The multi-clustering model allows enterprises to host web files, databases, FTP, or emails on separate nodes while utilizing load balancing to ensure there is no single point of failure.

In layman’s terms – even if one of your servers goes down – another one will take over, thus ensuring uninterrupted service availability.

The clustered web hosting model is ideal for large online shops, message boards, media outlets, and large-scale projects with a custom build.

Cluster Types

Clustered hosting is quite flexible, allowing clients to build their infrastructure from scratch. Depending on the specific setup, though, we can still outline different types of models:

  • Single Data Centre Cluster

In this model, you have a few interconnected nodes placed in the same data centre. Users need a couple of nodes for load balancing; the rest can be freely utilized for web files, databases, backups, or whatever else you may need. Should one of the nodes or load balancers fail – the infrastructure will still remain active because the reserve one will be taking over.

  • Multi-Data Centre Cluster

Here, we have the same node/load balancer model but replicated in two different data centres – one is active, and the other is on standby. The latter activates only if the entire system goes inactive on a data centre level, ensuring there won’t be a second of downtime for your visitors.

  • Multi-Region Cluster

Going the extra mile, clients can also employ the services of three or more data centres, all in an

active status. This maximizes the redundancy and makes online services practically impossible to fail. Any of your data centres may go offline, any of the nodes or load balancers may stop working, and that will still make no difference – there are plenty of backup plans in this clustering model.

If you fancy the idea of a clustered web hosting plan but lack the knowledge of how to run it – some providers can also offer managed packages. You leave the infrastructure setup and maintenance to your host and focus on your enterprise growth in the meantime.

Pros and Cons of the Clustering Model

No infrastructure model will fit every client like a glove, especially on the level high traffic websites are playing on. Coming with some underlying benefits and risks, we must do careful research before choosing the multi-cluster model.

Pros

  • Limitless Scalability – adding resources on the go is a great option for businesses of any size but absolutely essential for big enterprises. You can start with just a few servers and steadily grow to a behemoth of an infrastructure with hundreds of interconnected machines that serve your project alone.
  • Maximized Performance – drawing from a pool of unlimited resources ensures you will always have enough RAM and processing power to handle millions of requests. This means you can achieve seamless page load speed even when you have thousands of simultaneous users trying to reach your content.
  • Low Security Risks – the clustered infrastructure is a nightmare for hackers as there is no effective way to bring all your services offline. Even a heavy DDoS attack that manages to disrupt the entire data centre would not be felt by the end user.

Cons

  • Higher Infrastructure Investments – when you’re playing in the Big League, you have to be prepared for big spending. While many businesses can run perfectly fine on a shared or VPS plan, spending much less than $100/£83 per month for web hosting, clustered hosting prices can easily exceed $1,000/£832 per month.
  • Complex for a Non-Technical User – it takes a seasoned expert or sometimes an entire IT team to ensure your multi-cluster platform is running smoothly. If your business doesn’t already employ such professionals – you would have to sign up for a managed plan and rely on the know-how of your host’s support.

It all starts with the right environment, so if you’re already bringing lots of people to your pages – multi-cluster models are definitely a viable option to consider.

By Radoslav Chakarov, Content Lead at ScalaHosting.

Guest Contributor
Guest Contributor
Follow on Twitter @eWeekUK

Popular Articles