Technology

Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Josephbker

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How To Find A Hosting Solution That Handles Traffic Spikes

When Apple announced the iPhone 5, Apple fans turned to a site called gdgt, which was live blogging the announcement event. Not surprisingly, the intense interest in the iPhone upgrade caused a huge spike in the site’s traffic.

However, Mitch Goldstone, President & CEO with ScanMyPhotos.com, came close to disaster when The New York Times Personal Tech columnist, David Pogue reviewed the site. “Live support couldn’t keep up and once the article was placed on Yahoo! News, we again nearly lost service as in an instant. We had 34,000 new unique visitors,” said Goldstone.

While that sudden burst of attention to your site can be great for business, it can also spell disaster without a hosting provider that can handle traffic spikes.

“This issue has to do with something known as Concurrent connections,” explained Sameep Shah, who runs Netlyte LLC, a website design firm. “Most hosting accounts offer a shared hosting account meaning you can get a lot of visitors over a period of time, but if they all tried to visit at the same time then the website would crash. So the solution is to switch from a shared hosting which offers a few hundred concurrent connections at any given time versus a virtual private service which can offer thousands of concurrent connections.”

This is not the same as bandwidth, Shah added. Bandwidth is when you have a good amount of visitors and it’s not crashing your shared hosting but the amount of files that they download goes over the server’s bandwidth limit. Rackspace offers such a service, which is what kept gdgt’s site up during the iPhone5 event.

Robert Melton is the founder of the website Funtober, a seasonal site that will see an additional 40,000-50,000 unique visitors a day during the month of October. It was imperative that he find a hosting provider that could handle the extreme change in traffic. During his search for the right provider, he found there were four options to consider:

Managed Hosting: They run it all and keep your server up. You don’t have to worry about it and you can run your business. The disadvantage is that you don’t have as much control of the settings on your server. This is particularly popular in WordPress right now.

VPS: Melton’s site hosted on VPS.net last year. “We could quickly reboot the server with additional resources (cpu/memory) in order to handle traffic spikes,” he said.

Scalable cloud hosting: Funtober decided to take advantage of the ability to scale in the cloud. “We’ll just spin up an additional server during the day and shut it down at night when we don’t need it. This can be done automatically during high traffic or preprogrammed for certain times,” Melton added.

Another important consideration is the customer support. As Goldstone pointed out: not only should you consider a company that can provide 24/7 support, but also someone who can be proactive to prepare a site for potential spikes. “When we know a major news profile is appearing we alert our hosting company to handle any situation,” he said.

In the end, your number one objective when picking the right hosting provider is to find someone who will anticipate situations that could cause a traffic-related crash. The reason is simple: “We get one shot to impress customers,” said Goldstone. “And if there is a single weak link, we lost a sale and our credibility.”

Sue Poremba is a freelance writer focusing primarily on security and technology issues and occasionally blogs for cloud service provider Rackspace Hosting.

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