Ecommerce Server: Use Load Balancing to Boost Uptime
Ecommerce Server Load Balancing Defined
Small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) running an ecommerce server have a lot of concerns, particularly if you use only one server to handle all the incoming requests for your website.
Load balancing involves adding extra servers to distribute the workload and traffic among them. This is a server management technique that can help when you have only one server handling all the HTTP requests for your website. As traffic grows, this single server may no longer be able to deal with the traffic influx and as a result the site can load slowly or worse -- it crashes or times out.
The problem is that many small businesses find it nearly impossible to afford the cost of purchasing two or more servers for load balancing.
Unique Issues for Ecommerce Servers
Ecommerce servers have unique functions -- for example small businesses rely on the server for its entire infrastructure. The ecommerce server handles your site contents, database, shopping carts and traffic. Important ecommerce functionality like encryption for credit card transactions can really task an already busy ecommerce server.
Many ecommerce load balancing vendors offer high-priced appliances and switches that are not designed by product or price to meet a smaller businesses needs. Kemp Technologies is one company, however, that is making headway in the price/performance area in the entry-level market for SMB server load balancing.
The company offers affordable devices -- either as hardware or as virtual appliances -- so businesses can keep their ecommerce sites up and traffic flowing flawlessly. The products include Kemp's LoadMaster family of fully-featured load balancers with Layer-7 content switching, SSL acceleration and security.
Intelligent Ecommerce Server Load Balancing
In an interview with Ecommerce-Guide.com, Peter Melerud -- Kemps co-founder and vice president of product management -- said there are a number of new ecommerce server trends, but topping the chart is intelligent load balancing, even across multiple co-locations.
For example, one server in New York and another in London need intelligent load balancing -- in the same way that multiple servers in one location require load balancing for optimal performance.
Multiple servers for load balancing, especially for intensive ecommerce computing tasks were once a hefty IT investment, running businesses upwards of $20,000. Realizing that the needs of SMBs are unique -- most require a starting point of two servers with options to expand from there based on an ecommerce sites growing needs -- Kemp offers its LoadMaster 2200 with 1-GB throughput, integrated SSL acceleration and Layer 7 content switching for $1,990.
From there small business owners can upgrade to different models, which Melerud said are same product but that offer increased throughput for small business owners.
Do I Need an Ecommerce Server?
One decision that small business ecommerce site owners need to make is when they need to move from Internet-based solutions (SaaS) to dedicated in-house ecommerce servers.
Not every small business needs to have its own in-house server, but there are some good indicators as to when you might need to consider this option, Melerud said.
As your small business grows, so will your need for having your own in-house ecommerce server. Things like the type of traffic your site handles and where it originates, in addition to seeing server downtime or pages loading slowly are issues that most small business owners will notice. These could be rectified by hosting your own server in-house.
Other issues, like needing more control to modify your ecommerce applications or simply recognizing growing revenues and business growth early on are also indicators that your small business may need to look at new ecommerce server options and in-house IT support.
Still, Melerud said that even when a small business is not ready to purchase its own server and instead uses a hosting provider for its ecommerce website, the vendor still needs to offer load balancing as part of its service for optimal uptime and better speeds for your customers to access your site.
Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.
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