Let's consider where such a traffic surge could come from.
- Online and offline marketing campaigns
- Launching a new business
- Re-launching a business with an updated brand
- New product and service launches
- Special event marketing
- Ticketing onsales and registrations
- Surprise media and social media coverage
- Attacks from disruptive groups based on underhand practices (website flooding, DoS, etc.)
That's all great (for the most part) because more traffic means more exposure, more custom, and more profit.
With all that additional traffic, the idea is that it converts to massive sales, increased brand confidence, a boost in popularity, further referral reach, and many more positive repercussions are all excellent bonuses.
That said, when it comes to web traffic, you can have too much of a good thing.
How to handle website traffic
Too much traffic to your web servers can bring your website grinding to a halt. Depending on the amount of web traffic, the load your system is designed to manage, and your servers' size, then a sudden surge or traffic spike can be terrible news for your website owners and their business.
Why? Because without a functioning website, your sales drop to zero. You also suffer a massive drop in customer confidence because let's face it, none of us are prepared to put up with a broken website, a failed payment gateway, slow-loading pages, or an app that doesn't work as we demand it should. A crashed site means zero user visits and no incoming requests for sales. All of a sudden, those traffic spikes look like the enemies of your web hosting, crushing your site speed with too much online traffic, instead of it being the answer to your sales prayers.
The associated losses of repeat sales, referrals, and recommendations also disappear. All that extra traffic doesn't sound so much like sunshine and success at every juncture now, does it? It sounds like a bit of a nuisance.
Don't worry, though; we're going to discuss such troublesome traffic problems and explain how to turn your high traffic websites into safe and secure sales, protecting your web hosting environment by moving those high traffic surges to alternate dedicated servers.
Where are the most likely bottlenecks in your system?
There are two key areas where your systems are the most likely to struggle: your inventory database and your payment system. Both of these areas demand communication between machines at either end of the process, which drains a lot of data.
Synchronising inventory placed on hold—as a customer places an item in their basket and enters the checkout process—activates a locking system on your eCommerce platform. This prevents customers from trying to buy products that are no longer available. If the first customer fails to complete their purchase, then the product lock is canceled, and the item becomes available again. All this real-time interaction with your database can mean your system being incredibly overworked when you suffer heavy surges in your site traffic.
Payment gateways take time to perform the necessary checks for credit and debit card services, verifying each qualifying candidate. Each test takes only a few seconds during low traffic times but up to as long as 10 seconds during high-traffic periods. There are a finite number of transactions your payment system can manage, and when each one takes longer to complete, it creates an unhealthy build-up in the process.
When there are just too many operations for your system to cope with, it collapses under the pressure, and then nobody's getting what they need—you, or your customers.
How to determine the amount of traffic your site's web server can safely handle
You don't have to wait for the world to cave in to realize your site isn't prepared for hefty surges in traffic. The technology is available to test each system and find out what it can safely handle.
Performance testing can predict the essential data you need using established tools and techniques.
- Load testing simulates what would happen with expected traffic, for example, the added demand from email campaigns or social media and PPC advertising.
- Stress testing simulates what would happen with even more pressure from further traffic. It identifies the points where systems and applications slow down and stop working altogether. This helps owners understand their system architecture and determine if it's appropriate for their current business and future growth.
- Spike testing gathers data for situations where a sudden surge hits your servers, above what your system can cope with—ideal for predicting outcomes of SPAM or other DoS attacks.
- Soak testing measures the anticipated issues when a system is subject to high traffic levels of your web users over extended periods.
One thing's for sure; testing must happen before it's too late. We've all heard the phrase, ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’. It couldn't be more appropriate for the problems huge traffic surges can bring to your business.
There are easier ways for website owners to work out safe levels of website traffic for high traffic websites - read our handy guide.
What can you do with all that extra traffic to stop it crippling your website's speed or app performance?
There are always several solutions to every given problem, and surges in traffic are no exception. Here are a few ways to try and keep your systems safe when those sudden bursts of activity hit your servers.
Streamlining your high traffic website to deliver less content in bottleneck areas
If it's all about crunching numbers (and it is), many organizations reduce the amount of data being moved around by slimming down the pages getting the most attention. With a slimmed-down set of pages, a reduction of dynamic content, simplified page components, perhaps delivered only at peak times, your web server has less work to do per visitor, and can manage more traffic, respectively.
Building specific landing pages containing only static resources for advertising events off-site, with a different hosting provider or in alternative locations on multiple servers, to protect valuable server resources is another way of keeping that too-high traffic away from your heaviest performing pages - and it's worth taking a look at how your content management system or operating system is affecting performance too - but time spent on a "fine tune" may not always yield significant enough benefits. There are a variety of optimization techniques and optimization plugins you can use, including image optimization, to reduce the amount of traffic coming from other machines, without using more resources to serve media files. A caching plugin that can compress images or compress html can help.
Opting to deliver third-party content
Websites under pressure utilizing third-party content can remove some of that pressure away from their web hosting. If analytics pages, testing protocols, payment gateways, or social media integration can happen off-site, then it frees up processing power to manage those excess bursts of visitors.
Caching content for re-delivery is another option. For subsequent users viewing the same data, it can pay to utilize server-side caching, content delivery networks, proxy and browser caches, or any other type of client-side storage available during the process. These are often deployed with minimal changes to your domain name server configuration.
With database-driven systems, particularly eCommerce sites, they're continually interacting with their databases to produce new pages. This can create a massive strain on processing when heavy traffic floods in. Creating a page once and re-delivering it significantly reduces that pressure, often enough to avert disaster.
Load balancing your web servers
When inundated with unexpected traffic, load balancing handles website traffic by splitting your daily traffic above the server level and routes it through different servers, taking the pressure off any single server when facing high loads. Intelligent load balancing, carried out using load balancing switches around available servers, diverts traffic from struggling servers to the most responsive, so your site performs as you need it to, delivering the types of page speed your customers expect. While utilizing some kind of load balancer can help each web server, it’s still not an ideal solution to those high traffic website events and can increase your web development costs.
What happens when there's too much traffic for your regular workarounds?
That's where we come in. Queue-Fair is a digital queuing system that moves your excess traffic into a safe environment—a virtual waiting room on its own dedicated hosting.
Each user is assigned a first-come, first-served slot in the queue and is recalled as soon as the website is ready for them.
With all the information presented to visitors in a branded format that integrates seamlessly with your website, they can make the best use of their time, stress-free, knowing where in the queue they sit, the speed they're moving up the line, and how long their wait is likely to take.
If your website is working under normal traffic capabilities, they won't even know it's there. Our system works with your existing dedicated server hosting plan, protecting you from the traffic surge flooding your most popular web page.
It's simple, it's fair, and it protects your web systems, your customers, and your brand reputation. Delivering truly impressive specifications, it's the perfect solution that will save you from stress, downtime, and the kinds of financial losses nobody wants to suffer.