On May 11th 2022, I was listening to the awesome Chris Moyles Show, on Radio X. The host, Chris, was publicizing a website on which his co-star Dominic Bryne was featured (bookable for a celeb video message) when the site in question crashed while he was live on air.
A throwaway comment was made that the featured website "needed a load balancer"!! Chris and Dominic may have admitted they had no idea how it worked - but they certainly knew enough to correctly diagnose it as something that might solve that particular problem!! Guys, we salute you!!!
And, Chris and team, (for the record), here's how it works....
Why websites crash
The most common reason websites experience downtime is a mismatch between server demand and supply. When the demands made on the server are greater than the resources available, that's when servers become overwhelmed and websites start crashing or slowing down.
Not great when money and man-hours have been invested in Marketing to drive people to the website in the first place!
The beauty of the obscure but clever networking solution called 'load balancing' is that it intelligently monitors and equally distributes traffic as needed to manage the ebb and flow of users (think of it as a sidekick you don't need 95% of the time, until something goes wrong and then you really need it).
How load balancers solve this problem
Load balancers (also known as Application Delivery Controllers, or 'ADCs') work in the background to achieve this in three ways:
- Getting customers into your website - Load balancers sit in front of web servers, and before directing users to your website, make sure the server is functioning and has adequate capacity. If not, this workflow is seamlessly distributed amongst the available servers.
- Meeting demand - With virtual load balancer appliances, it’s quick and easy for organizations to increase resources to meet anticipated peaks in demand, then scale back down to typical operating levels later. This keeps everything flowing smoothly.
- Uninterrupted experience - When users start filling in competition forms or buying tickets, for example, this information is stored with their session data locally in your browser. If, while browsing, they were to make different requests to different servers during the same session, this could lead to errors, performance issues, or other problems, which might cause them to abandon the website. Load balancers mitigate this risk by ensuring multiple requests from the same user are all sent to a single server for the duration of their session (aptly named ‘session persistence’).
So if you have a website and need redundancy to avoid downtime, you might want to look into getting a load balancer - giving you one less thing to worry about!
Chris Moyles and team, we salute you. We think you're officially the coolest people on the planet right now, and honorary Loadbalancer.org #ADCHeroes!! If you ever need someone to come on your show and explain to your viewers what it is - look us up!!