Is your website or application growing exponentially, or are you experiencing downtime?
Whether your company’s success is leading to website or application slowdowns, downtime, or availability issues, or you are expanding into a new business area that has different business requirements, there are many reasons why companies evolve into high performance hosting environments.
But what is high performance hosting? What does it help with? Is it cost effective?
A multi-server environment governed by a load balancer provides advantages that are not cost-effective for many startups or small businesses, but are important or indispensable for other small and medium-sized businesses.
High performance hosting means hosted infrastructure designed to process high numbers of concurrent requests while meeting the service standards of the business.
Compromising on performance and availability eventually translates into reduced income, increased cost, or both. If avoiding these compromises requires a multi-server architecture, then you should consider investing in high performance hosting.
A Typical High Performance Setup
The infrastructure for a high performance setup always includes multiple servers, along with a load balancer to direct traffic and a firewall to filter traffic to the servers. It also often includes separate physical dedicated servers for web applications and databases, with a managed service for file replication, and a private switch.
Each server in the system is designed to meet specific high performance requirements, which generally means leveraging the latest processor technologies, with sufficient RAM and solid-state storage to meet all business objectives, even at peak demand.
Web or app traffic is distributed between those servers by the load balancer to maintain peak performance, and data is accessed from the dedicated database server by the web or app servers as needed.
A more complex high performance architecture could include clustered servers, building redundancy into the system to ensure uptime and reliable performance.
Like clusters, all high performance hosting solutions include multiple servers, but not all multi-server solutions are architected for High Performance or as clusters.”
A High Performance Setup at Liquid Web
A typical High Performance hosting environment from Liquid Web will include a managed Stingray shared load balancer with a virtual IP, which passes traffic through the firewall to a pair of managed web servers. The web servers will have Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 Quad-Core processors, with at least 16GB of DDR4 SDRAM, and a pair of 250 GB SSD (Raid 1) drivers each for primary and replicated storage (four drives total). These will be connected at the back-end to a database server via a private 8 port Gigabit switch.
The specific hardware and architecture that a given business needs to achieve high performance depends on several factors:
- How many users are connecting
- How long the users are connecting for
- Where the users are located
- What they are doing while connected
As with any infrastructure question, consult with an expert if you are uncertain on how to make the most cost-efficient decision.
Common Use Cases
While they are deployed for a wide variety of use cases, there are some fairly common situations in which businesses find themselves needing to upgrade to a high performance environment.
A load balanced multi-server environment with a dedicated database server and file replication is commonly recommended for sites and applications that must run resource-intensive, mission-critical workloads to preserve traffic speed and availability.
Infrastructure experts typically recommend eCommerce vendors consider moving to a high performance hosting environment as soon as they have completed their proof of concept stage and begun to grow.
Performance slowdowns are a conversion-killer for online sales, and high performance hosting enables businesses of all sizes to maintain performance during traffic spikes, such as might be caused by a successful sale or promotion, or an event like Cyber Monday.
An isolated database server is also necessary for PCI-DSS compliance if you are collecting credit card or related financial information, so the infrastructure change necessary for a high performance system is relatively minimal.
Streaming and Gaming
Any website serving streaming multimedia content also needs to consider implementing a high performance hosting environment to meet user expectations. Video and interactive content must load and function without driving traffic away with the “wheel of death."
The infrastructure required by multimedia companies is generally different from online retailers, with support for much higher bandwidth and more connections. Many service providers offer “unlimited bandwidth” plans which will not, however, be up to the challenge without the right infrastructure, along with a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Digital Service Providers
Most developers, designers, and digital service providers also require the speed and consistency of high performance multi-server architectures.
Splitting off the database server, while probably not necessary for regulatory compliance reasons as it is with an online store, enables faster responses from web or application servers, while redundancy ensures stability and reliability, keeping your customers, whether they are website owners, app users, or digital service partners, happy and using your service.
Scaling a quality digital services business requires a multi-server environment, and providing any kind of premium service requires the resource availability and power of high performance hosting anyway.
Many businesses in other industries can also benefit from a multi-server environment engineered for High Performance, and the above are just a sample of the use cases.
Knowing When You Need High Performance Hosting
Many other businesses do not require the kind of performance and capabilities a high performance hosting plan delivers, and would be better off investing in an upgrade to a dedicated server, or managed private cloud hosting.
Knowing which is sometimes relatively easy, but often takes a close one-on-one consultation with infrastructure professionals. As with any kind of environment, the level of service and the quality of the components are key to realizing full value, so do your research and choose a quality host to help you get the greatest return on your IT investment.
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Melanie Purkis is the Director of Liquid Web's Managed Hosting Products & Services. Melanie has more than 25 years of experience with professional leadership, project management, process development, and technical support experience in the IT industry.
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