Load Balancing and Failover Improve Hosting

Everyone wants their traffic to go viral, but most don’t realize that if they do get mentioned on a major site or go viral on social media their hosting company is likely to take their site down. When this happens, they lose the benefit of having gone viral!

The reason for this is traffic limits on almost every hosting solution. If you go over your traffic limit, some hosting companies may charge you for the overage while others will immediately take your site offline.

This is only one disadvantage of typical hosting plans. Another is server failure. Your site is typically hosted on only one server. If that server has a hard drive head crash or any other technical failure your site goes down.

Content Delivery Network

By using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) also known as a Content Distribution Network, your site is hosted on multiple servers in diverse locations. This is the ultimate protection against technical failures, power outages, and internet slowdowns.

CDNs also provide caching in multiple locations closer to the end users, decreasing page load times. Other benefits are enhanced security and resistance to DDoS attacks thanks to high capacity networks of servers.

Server Failover

The best CDNs automatically reroute traffic from a failed server to the backup, ideally without human intervention. Some CDNs require the process to be activated manually while others provides automatic failover detection to immediately activate your preconfigured backup server and alert you via email.

 

Load Balancing

With Google’s emphasis on page load speed, using a CDN with load balancing can be the easiest method to decrease delays.  The idea is to have multiple servers that can serve traffic and then use the CDN as the “middle-man” to distribute the incoming requests between these multiple servers. There are many load balancing methods. Legacy CDNs usually rely on Anycast routing while the more modern ones take it a step further with layer 7 load balancing solutions.

The benefit of the later method is that, while Anycast routing using the shorter path from user to server, the layer 7 load balancing is also able to route traffic to servers based on their current traffic load.  Using both helps you not only take the shortest path but also to choose the best recipient. However, with Anycast-only solutions you always run the risk of overcrowding the popular servers while leaving the un-popular ones un-visited and underperforming.

Security

CDNs are a very effective method of protecting your site from DDoS threats and other cyber-attacks because a CDN network of servers can handle vastly more requests at one time and because its servers are positioned on the edge of your network, where they can expect all incoming traffic.

“An effective defense against an HTTP flood can be the deployment of a reverse proxy – in particular collection of reverse proxies spread across multiple hosting locations. A reverse proxy is somewhat akin to a bouncer at a nightclub, deciding which guests are allowed into the party, where the real web server is. By deploying many bouncers in different locations, the crush of incoming traffic is split into fractions, lessening the possibility of the network becoming overwhelmed.”

Today some CDN platforms also provide websites with Web Application Firewall (WAF) and even offer the options to add custom security rules for organizations that want to tweak the default security policies.

Simple Implementation

Manually implementing your own load balancing or failover solution is extremely complex. Mistakes could lead to loss of traffic and other undesirable side-effects (i.e. temporary loss of Google rankings). Fortunately, implementing an existing CDN solution can be as simple as changing the DNS for your site at your domain registrar to route your traffic through the CDN.

How CDNs Work

When an internet user goes to your URL (such as www.yoursite.com), instead of the domain name server (DNS) pointing directly to your original server that hosts your site, the CDN will send the user to the server closest to their location (based on their IP address) or least busy instead. Depending upon the size of the CDN, there could be dozens of copies of your site each on a server in a different location.

Do You Need a CDN?

Huge sites with thousands of simultaneous visitors spread across the world need CDNs. Whether you need a CDN or not depends on the type of site you run and how critical it is for you financially for that site to stay online

Business focused websites will benefit from the security aspects, faster page load times and additional availability options. With commercial CDNs services available for just few dozen dollars a month, and freemium CDNs offering free plans and trial offers, any site owner whose income is derived from being online should consider upgrading to the use of a CDN.

Will Changing Hosts Affect Search Rankings?

A common question in the SEOChat forums is whether moving your site or changing hosts will affect your SEO rankings and position in the serps.

If everything were exactly the same, moving your site between identical servers should not impact your search engine positions if the move is done correctly. But everything is never exactly the same.

Each hosting company has different hardware, networks, versions of server code, and configurations. How quickly your site loads is important. The faster you can make it, and the more reliable your hosting, the higher you will rank. Factors that impact page load time are:

  • Speed of the server
  • Demand on the server (how many sites with how much traffic)
  • Distance from the end user (the person looking for your site)
Using a CDN can greatly speed up your download times by duplicating the most often requested content on your site across multiple servers. Load balancing and failover speeds up your site and also ensures there is no downtime.

Watch Your Downtime

Extended downtime can definitely negatively impact your rankings on Google and other search engines, so choosing a reliable hosting company is essential to your success.

CDNs also provide serious security, which ensure your site is far less likely to get hacked. Lengthy outages recovering from damage hackers do can can largely be avoided.

Be sure to choose a CDN known for security as some focus more on page load speed while others focus on both.

Speed Up Download Time

If you are serious about getting your site to load faster, start with these tips. And do note the links to additional information at the bottom of that post. There are some simple things every site owner should know. For example:
  • Your site should be hosted on a server in the country whose audience you most want to reach. See Server Location as a Local Ranking Factor for details.
  • Other sites on a shared server can negatively impact your search engine positions, so choose carefully and know what other sites are on the same server with you. Use this lookup tool to find out.
How moving your site can impact your search rankings can be a complex question, but here is a good video that explains some of the variables: Video Highlights:
  • Changing servers CAN impact your rankings
  • If your site is still identical, the main concern is other poor quality sites on a shared server
  • Switching between content management systems (between Drupal or Blogger to WordPress for example) will change your URLs and directories; this can definitely cause major issues if not done correctly
  • Be sure to redirect any URLs that change so you don’t lose the value of those incoming links
If you’re not happy with your current hosting company, use this guide to moving your site. One common mistake is to take down your existing site before you’ve tested the new one.

Use a Test Site When Moving

An expert tech should leave your existing site up and load a duplicate copy of it onto the new server. That new copy should be checked over and tested to ensure it is working fine and has no issues BEFORE you re-point the DNS servers to the new location.

Another useful tip is to shorten the caching time on your existing site well before you start the move. This will reduce the amount of time it takes for all your users to see the site at the new location.

Whether changing hosts affects your search rankings will depend upon the quality of the move. If everything is done correctly, there may be a temporary drop in search rankings, but it will quickly recover.