Modern websites are resource-intensive and there is nothing much you can do about it. These resources are crucial for their features, visuals, and user experience. You might pick up the right server for your website but it is difficult to predict when and how much more resources your website will need to accommodate a sudden spike in traffic or when you do not need these resources anymore.
Computing power is finite and so is your hosting budget. You can not solve the scaling challenge simply by getting the biggest server out there nor can you afford to lose customers due to a sluggish and low performant website. The ideal solution should scale up with your business requirements and scale down when that requirement no longer exists to save up hosting costs. What you need is — auto scaling.
In the following article, I will discuss what auto scaling is and what happens to your online business when your website does not scale. Finally, I will introduce you to the solution that we at Convesio have built that does not only implements the auto scaling efficiently but also keeps your hosting budget affordable.
What is Auto scaling?
Auto scaling is a method of injecting computing power to match the current resource requirements of your website. More website visitors place more load, or strain, on your servers.
This can lead to severe performance issues as well as other related problems (discussed later) that directly affect the operations of your online business. Auto scaling is a great way of avoiding such bottle-necks and delivering consistent high-performing web pages to your visitors.
Auto scaling gives your site access to an additional pool of resources available in a server farm that is only made accessible when needed. This eliminates the constant stress of going out of resources when traffic spikes as well as gives an incentive of running just enough resources to support the existing load. Another key benefit of auto scaling is that it scales up and down your server resources without your visitors noticing any change in the performance.
Who Needs Auto Scaling?
The short answer to the above question is every business that needs to scale. It is important to identify the hosting needs of your online business and how well your current system can withstand the load. Of course, every website is different and only a number of load tests can reveal the actual requirements.
For example, your team runs a load test before the holiday season and finds out that the current system needs to scale in order to accommodate the traffic surges then you need a solution that does that automatically.
Now, let’s dissect some popular businesses that could potentially need auto scaling for all the good reasons.
Online stores are typically more resource-intensive than other sites. They are dynamic, heavy in size, and make a larger number of requests to the server. Caching is also limited due to unique cart and checkout page requests. All the above put a strain on your server when more people start visiting your store at once. This translates into a sluggish performance, slow loading times, slow wp-admin, and possibly 504 errors — which is bad for the business.
Now imagine, having auto scaling in place. The moment your server gets overwhelmed with a traffic surge, additional resources kick in to save the day! You can sit back or pat your marketing team’s back for running that viral campaign that sent these huge herds of visitors to your online store.
Online Course Provider
Providing streamable video course material to thousands of students requires serious server resources. On top of that, the majority of the course providers use some kind of a Learning Management System, LMS for short, to manage students’ courses, learning material, and payments. It is quite possible that a large number of students are streaming courses, or taking exams online when all of the sudden your server becomes unresponsive because another hundred just decided to log into their courses.
Events like that require a scalable solution that can acquire additional resources instantly. Auto scaling can play an integral role in providing uninterrupted service with consistent performance.
Virtual events are a real thing especially post covid. Thousands of visitors could be attending such events at a given time and interacting with the online platform. This can easily lead to unprecedented situations where the server runs out of resources and attendees are unable to enjoy the event they paid for. This requires a well-planned scaling strategy.
On the contrary, some businesses provision very large servers that sit idle most of the time. This does not only waste valuable computing resources but also adds up to the hosting budget. Therefore, a thorough resource assessment is vital before hosting virtual events. As an owner, you should speak to experts beforehand to discuss resource availability for handling the expected number of attendees to avoid any pitfalls during a live event. Auto scaling can serve as a backup strategy in case further resources are needed.
Membership sites are very complex and difficult to manage — resource-wise. The reason for that is the very limited content of a membership site is cacheable. There is a lot of dynamic activity on the login pages, discussion pages, and checkout pages for digital goods. Similarly, many concurrent users could also be using the admin dashboard. Another problem is a large number of concurrent users which is very common on any membership site.
Before implementing auto scaling, membership site owners should also assess their hosting provider carefully and choose the one that supports a robust, high-performing, and scalable origin hosting. On top of that, autoscaling manages resource allocation to keep running operations smoothly.
Why is auto scaling important for your business?
As seen above, auto scaling can help a number of online businesses scale easily. But for that to happen you also need an infrastructure that supports scaling in the first place. What happens when your website is unable to scale? Or when the resources do not scale down? What risks you should consider as a business owner and based on that choose an appropriate solution.
Following are some of the critical risks involved when your site does not scale or scale down when it needs to.
First and foremost, the performance of your site degrades when it does not scale for new visitors. Your server becomes busy handling requests from existing customers and unable to process the new ones in an efficient way. This can increase the initial loading time of your site that directly affects your SERP ranking and could also hurt the user experience of the visitors already browsing your site.
This is a common issue with the majority of the hosting providers. Some have no scalability plan in place while others rely heavily on caching for performance. This only works until your site get overwhelming traffic. On the other hand, at Convesio we do not compromise performance while scaling your site. Our unique container-based architecture allows your website to scale while delivering the same consistent performance to every visitor.
Let’s say you are hosting with a provider that scales easily with minimum labor but does not know when to scale down. auto scaling also keeps your hosting budget under a predictable range. If not implemented you might end up provisioning very large servers that your site seldom uses, thus, wasting resources.
Abandoned carts are one of the major problems eCommerce owners deal with. Businesses invest heavily to minimize abandoned carts with interactive tools, intelligent bots, etc. However, a large number of visitors simply abandon their carts due to the sluggish performance of the store and long waiting times. Since pages like carts and checkouts cannot be cached, it is important that your server scales instantly when a certain threshold is exceeded.
Similar to abandoned carts, visitors of any site simply go away and search for a better alternative if their user experience is spoiled. They find it difficult to navigate, search or fill forms when the server is unresponsive. Hence, increasing the bounce rate — one of the key metrics.
Your server starts throwing 504 errors when the user requests are timed out. This could happen when your site is unable to scale to accommodate the high volume of traffic. This is not a very pretty sight from a user’s perspective and can raise some serious questions about the credibility of your online business.
Anything that spoils the user experience of a visitor also hurts the reputation of your online business. The performance has now become a yardstick to measure the success of any online business. It reflects how much effort the owners put in to create an enjoyable browsing experience for their visitors. A low-performant site or store raises concerns about the quality of services your business promises to deliver, thus, seriously damaging its credibility.